When a Fence is also an Invitation

Oct 19, 2022 | Practice

People are fascinated by watching artists create their art. So when Wichita State University (WSU) envisioned renovations to Henrion Hall’s Sculpture Foundry (the outdoor space where metals are melted, poured, and cast), they wanted to open up more windows to the art creation process. The previous fence around the foundry was a residential wooden fence that created a symbolic and literal barrier between the public and the arts. A new design would increase opportunities for public interaction with the arts.

Odimo had the opportunity to work with WSU to renovate the Foundry’s fence and surrounding area. The designs needed to be functional as well as inviting. Some goals for the project were:

  • A better entry experience into the building
  • A connection to the adjacent arts building
  • Protective and safe enclosures
  • Gates that open as much as possible on “pour days,” where students and community members can watch the creative process
  • Artistic design and detail

Move That Fence!
The Odimo team considered the goals of the project and completed the project with the client’s needs in mind. The renovated foundry is wrapped in a steel fence, integrating a replaced canopy roof and custom gates. The final design opened two bi-fold leaves for a total viewing width of 22’-0”. Heavy-duty hinges and specialty compression wheels capable of up to 2” of deflection maintain connection with the sloping grade to allow for smooth manual operation. The new fence opens up to the plaza viewing area, an ideal space for collaboration and community.

A Flicker of Light
The WSU College of Fine Arts faculty developed the perforation concept for the final design on the fence, providing a flicker of views into the foundry. Odimo brought the faculty’s design to life, using a ½ inch steel wall for optimal viewing. The dark steel wall contrasts with the burnt orange color glowing from the smelting process within the foundry.

Why Odimo Was the Way to Go
Odimo’s designs are inspired by our clients’ needs and goals, which makes us the ideal fit for projects like this one. Additionally, since 2016, the team has completed nearly 50 university projects ranging from major programming efforts for significant campus buildings, to campus master planning, specialty laboratory design, student success centers, arts/theater spaces, office renovations, and classroom remodels. We aim to improve students’ academic experiences through design. This project was nominated for the AIAKC 2022 Awards for Divine Detail. 

Robert Frost, in Mending Wall, writes, “Good fences make good neighbors.” In this case, great fences bring communities together.