Marshall Fire: Public-Use Installations

Design Studio V 4120 001

Studio Focus | Spring 2022

This Spring 2022 undergraduate architecture studio turned its focus toward those impacted by the Marshall Fire that affected the communities of Superior, Louisville, and unincorporated Boulder County. Residents found themselves in a particularly difficult situation where insurance and FEMA monies combined fell short of reaching the cost to re-build.

Students began by researching the resilience of plant species native to Colorado and how those plants respond to fire. By considering how plants respond to fire, the studio began to apply this knowledge to how architectural systems could be informed by or respond in a similar way to such fires.  

The studio then applied this body of work, along with principles of modularity, mass customization, adaptability, and evaluation of the stringent requirements of the adopted 2021 International Energy Code, for single-family homes in Lousiville. This code along with the rising costs of construction makes the rebuilding efforts more than challenging for homeowners. The students challenged, designed, and discovered ways to meet the codes in cost-effective ways while speaking to the context of the neighborhood and providing a more modern approach than the housing built in the 80s and 90s. 

By the end of the semester, students produced designs placed in public spaces on the CU Denver campus. The students proposed two installations that speak to ideas of loss endured by the families affected by the Marshall Fire, including the loss of two lives, displacement and the loss of housing, and the impacts of climate change. These installations spoke to ideas of shelter, loss, and memorial. Currently, the “Escape Pod” installation can be experienced outside of the 1250 14th Street CU Denver Building.


CONCEPT: When confronted with a threat, billions of years of instinct compel humans to freeze, fight, or flee. In the face of a raging fire or rising waters, fleeing provides the strongest guarantee of safety. However, there is only so far to run from a degrading global climate. Our installation addresses this instinct and inability to flee from a dying Earth in the form of a decaying “escape pod.” This accessible space provides comfort through shade and seating, and engagement through dynamic, interactive audial, and visual elements. The installation speaks to the necessity of changing building practices in its use of sustainable materials. It further serves to activate the underutilized patio facing 14th & Larimer streets, drawing in people from within and beyond the campus.

College of Architecture and Planning

CU Denver

CU Denver Building

1250 14th Street


Denver, CO 80202


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