“Start an Evolution” Donor Recognition


PUBLIC Architecture

Practice Area


University of British Columbia

Project Vision

This interactive light installation located at the heart of the University of British Columbia, provides a colorful expression of thanks to the over 4,000 donors to the University’s “start an evolution” fundraising campaign, which raised an unprecedented two billion dollars.

The University asked PUBLIC: Architecture + Communication to design an engaging, permanent and timeless outdoor feature that would give thanks to the donors to their recent “start an evolution” fundraising campaign. The brief was to create anything but a typical donor wall.

The University wanted something bold, magical and unusual that would engage passersby, providing a focal point for an important crossroads on campus, the home to a number of important architectural features. In addition, the work needed to be: conceptually tied to the ripple concept of the campaign brand; updatable; interactive; vandal-resistant and cost-effective to build, install and maintain.

Vancouver can be a really dark and rainy place for the majority of the year. The light pillar approach allowed the PUBLIC design team to create a glowing work spread out across the plaza, attracting as much attention as possible with the smallest amount of material. The seemingly random placement and repetition of the triangular pillars both contrasts with and echoes the landscape and architecture of its surroundings.

In effect, the design team created an experience evocative of an “outdoor room” that invites passersby in. The tone of the installation echoes a celebratory “thank you.” As a visitor approaches the work, motion detectors sense an arrival and a ripple effect of color-changing light is expressed along the feature. A little unexpected, this interactive ripple element is playful and expresses the concept of the campaign. The donor names—not obvious from a distance—are engraved into the acrylic sides of the pillars in alphabetical order, which encourages exploration.

The PUBLIC design team reviewed various locations on campus for the most appropriate commemorative space and proposed design concepts to the client team and multiple levels of UBC’s design panels. The installation was unanimously approved by UBC’s peer-review design panel. They designed, refined and tested the lamp materiality, translucency and typographic solutions and developed the interactive lighting element in close collaboration with their technical design partners. PUBLIC also supervised the installation and testing of the work.

The installation successfully provides a placemaking anchor to the campus hub for pedestrians, cyclists and transit users and playfully brings to life the ripple-effect idea that underpinned the central fundraising campaign.

For its contribution to placemaking, the University fundraising team has heard nothing but rave reviews about the work and its role as a lively new physical feature—and a photo-op—for campus life.

It’s also been a huge success for the fundraising campaign: it was extremely cost-effective, and people who had previously asked for their donations to be listed anonymously have since called the client requesting to have their names added to the feature.

Project Details
This sensitive art installation is a true compliment to the surrounding landscape and architecture. I love the playful positioning of the totems and its connection to the human experience. This is an excellent example of thinking outside of the box for a donor recognition program.
Juror 1
There’s always a place for warm, quiet and inviting moments in public spaces. The ‘Evolution’ serves as a self-directed walk through responsive, atmospheric lighting—the result is a soft, subtle and memorable experience.
Juror 2
Design Team

Susan Mavor (creative lead), Scot Geib (associate designer), Sarah English (design support), Rafaela Kilos (design support), Kyle Elderhorst (design support), Eos Lightmedia (interactive programming), NGX Interactive (interactive concept), PFS Studio (landscape architecture)

Design Firm

PUBLIC Architecture

Project Area

700 sq ft

Project Budget



UBC Properties Trust (project management), Syncra Construction (installation and logistics)


CDM2 Lightworks/Lumid (fabricators), Innovative Signage (engraver),