Villanova University

Public Seating for the new RAMSA-designed Performing Arts Centre

Public area and lobby seating

Education & Research

We first came across the opportunity of working with Villanova University when we met Daniela Holt Voith and her team at VMA in Philadelphia in November 2017.

VMA were the architect of record for the new-build RAMSA-designed Performing Arts Centre (PAC) on campus at Villanova University., Daniela recognised that we might have something to offer and offered us the opportunity to present our ideas to the client.

When there is no brief and it’s all about envisioning a space

The entrance comprised a large open quadrant lobby area, with smaller interval spaces on the upper levels. Without a specific brief to work to, the team at Luke Hughes could see that there really was nowhere in the plan for people to meet or wait for others to join them before, during or after performances.

We therefore came up with the concept of a series of low-backed and backless modular bench units, designed to reflect the architectural spacing of  the façade’s window mullions  and to sit within and follow the line of the glazing.

The idea was simple; people need to be able to see out and be seen from outside when they are waiting for others in their party. Similarly, for the open spaces to remain relevant they had to be flexible.

Public seating can still be flexible and versatile

The curved, modular benches in the lobby therefore separate and can be reconfigured. Semi-circular ends can be used as stand-alone circular seats and can be re-linked in different configurations.

Upstairs, the reverse curve of the auditorium's outer wall offered the opportunity to design custom reverse-curve benches to set against the wall. Previous projects for which we have designed curved benches include CBST in New York and at the Yale School of Management

Delivering flawless results takes teamwork

Since the benches had to go into production before the auditorium wall was built, the Luke Hughes team provided full-size templates to use as ‘hard-numbers’ with the GC. To our relief, the wall and benches align perfectly.

Finally, additional bench-style modules were developed to fit between the columns separating the tall windows looking out onto the street from the 2nd and 3rd floor circulation spaces.


Together, the bench units offer somewhere for people to meet, sit, rest, gather and talk in what is now a fully functioning multi-purpose space that reflects and carries the architectural style developed by Robert AM Stern architects and executed by VMA, into the furniture itself.

Our thanks to the team at VMA for their close cooperation and excellent collaboration, and to the team at VU who were prepared to go with our vision for how we could make the public spaces in their beautiful new Robert AM Stern building come to life.

More photos to follow soon so please watch this space!

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