Diversity+Design competition pays tribute to victims of COVID-19 – UB Now: News and views for UB faculty and staff

UB students participating in the annual Diversity + Design competition generated a series of thoughtful proposals for a memorial to victims of COVID-19.

Their design concepts are the result of an annual competition organized by Beth Tauke, associate professor of architecture, as part her course, “American Diversity & Design” (ARC 211). 

The general education course — open to undergraduates from all majors — introduces students to the everyday ways design can make visible and better accommodate the needs of an increasingly diverse population. Writings, films, products, graphics, electronic media, buildings and environments by and about diverse individuals and groups are examined, as are the histories of our diverse physical and media environments.

This year’s competition honors the more than 3.7 million lives taken by COVID-19, inviting students to focus their memorial concepts on victims from underrepresented groups, many of which have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic.  

Tauke, an internationally regarded scholar and educator in inclusive design, organized the competition to raise awareness of COVID-19’s impact on underserved communities in the U.S., while also advancing innovative, cross-disciplinary approaches to inclusive environments.  

Working in groups, students targeted their proposals on a single underrepresented group (e.g., incarcerated individuals), and a specific site of installation (e.g., the exercise yard of Attica State Penitentiary). With “memorial” broadly defined, students were invited to consider formats as diverse as landmark objects, works of art, physical and digital environments, communication design and urban design. 

The winning proposals, featured below, also can be viewed on the Diversity + Design competition website. Students also exhibited their concepts virtually at the UB Inclusive Excellence Summit on April 8.

Earning a tie for first place were Jun Woo Park (BS computer science), Hanna Ruth (BS architecture) and Yosi Hoffman (BA environmental design).

Park curates a website for his proposal, titled “The Memorial,” that shares stories of individuals who lived in poverty and lost their lives to the pandemic. Each story is poetically represented as a lantern — brightening the night sky and never forgotten.

Ruth’s aptly titled “Behind the Mask” renders the inequitable and unrecognized experiences of those with physical disabilities through a design intervention along boardwalk. 

In his proposal, “Close to Tears,” Hoffman depicts the narrative as an installation at Buffalo’s historic Gates Circle, with a water feature in the shape of tears and names of victims submerged to convey the distance felt by victims during the pandemic.

Tying for second place were “A Memorial for African Americans Lost to COVID-19” by Rachel Ragonese, “Attica Correctional Facility COVID-19 Memorial Basketball Court” by Brandon Rau and “Special Trees” by Adam Dageshtani.

Receiving third place were “One Piece of a Whole Puzzle” by Julia Ferone, “Trumpville” by Mark Chen and “Memoirs of voice” by Hao Li.

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