By Kathryn Reilly
Carnegie Mellon University School of Architecture faculty members Doug Cooper and Stefani Danes recently unveiled their collaborative mural installation outside of the Simmons Auditorium in the new Tepper Building entitled “The Collaborative Campus.” Partners in life and project collaborators, the pair pooled their talent in drawn imagery and fabric piecework to create a cohesive depiction of cross-campus collaboration and innovation at CMU.
Composed of alternating panels of fabric and charcoal drawings, the mural depicts both abstract and realistic scenes of the hallmarks of cooperative innovation and collaboration at Carnegie Mellon. Four panels of drawings represent scenes of diverse activities taking place across the university that encourage synergy between members of the community. Various scenes take place inside familiar buildings across campus as students, faculty, and staff carry out collaborative activities. The SoA’s Urban Design Build Studio (UDBS) and Project RE_ are both featured in the mural as architecture students are depicted repurposing and building with salvaged materials in the great hall of the Field Robotics Center.
Cooper, recognized for his panoramic murals of cities including Pittsburgh, Rome, and Frankfurt, first began collaborating with Danes in 2013 when they worked together on a 44-foot by 24-foot mural for the East End Cooperative Ministry in Pittsburgh. The two began the Tepper mural early in 2018 and worked throughout the year to complete the project in time for installation during the university’s winter break.
“We worked in two separate studios throughout the process, meeting in one space or the other from time to time to ensure continuity in value, scale, and line between fabric and drawing,” said Cooper. Working in his South Side studio, Cooper was assisted by School of Drama student Adryan Miller-Gorder throughout this past summer; she contributed on the many figures that populate the drawn scenes. Bruce Chan, a student of Danes, assisted in the process of acrylic sealant application to the drawings to fix the charcoal to the paper substrate.
Danes’ textile work, which she pieced and sewed together in her studio at the home she and Cooper share in Friendship, adds color to Cooper’s intricate charcoal drawings. A principal with Perkins Eastman Architects, Danes has devoted much of her life’s work to designing urban environments for special populations within the nonprofit sector. Other textile pieces of hers are currently featured in a traveling exhibit called “Circular Abstractions.”
The bottom border of the mural depicts linear webs of fibrous nodes which can be interpreted as neurons and synapses, roots of trees, fungal networks, circuitry wires, and the messages they transmit. This pattern ties together the theme of generating knowledge by means of collaborative work. This is an especially fitting focus given the installation’s location in the open and engaging architecture of the new home of the Tepper School of Business, which was designed to encourage teamwork and support collaborative innovation.
The mural is featured in this week’s edition of CMU’s Piper Weekly. Check out a gallery of project photos and view the video interview with Danes and Cooper below.
Kathryn Reilly is a third-year Professional Writing student in the Carnegie Mellon University Dietrich College of Humanities and Social Sciences.