Elaine Zmuda

project list

A Shared Seat

July - August 2017 with Devin Gora / 2017 Burnham Competition entry

The 2017 Burnham Prize Competition, Under the Dome, invited participants to imagine new uses to make new history in the old St. Stephens Church in Hyde Park.


[from boards] Democracy depends on spirited debate with all citizens having equal voice.  Beautiful spaces for discussion are required to showcase its importance in our society.  While we have many such spaces already, not all are accessible to all citizens.  A Shared Seat proposes to change this by creating a space with no entry requirement (no position, no fee, no degree).  People of all cultures, races, nationalities, languages, abilities, and classes have an equal voice.   Any barriers to involvement are removed.

The main form of circulation is through ramps.  The seating platform is creating from a continuously spiraling ramp  with a seat along  it.  Rather than a space for iconographic images, the dome is now a space to project news and video onto a screen all participants can see.  A discussion curator would help participants to display their information to prove arguments or share ideas.

Discussion is no longer limited to those with the loudest voices, but is an shared seat for all.

[from boards] The unique design of the chair is what allows it to be accessed by all.  In the standard position, it will appear to be a continuous bench, like a pew that wraps around the spiral.  However, it will be made of tightly strung fabric over supports spaced every two feet.  When it is necessary to adjust the seat to allow wheelchairs or other mobility aids to fit into seating, the supports will be lowered down so the seat height becomes equal to the floor level.  Because of this, all participants in the space can still share the same seat, promoting equality regardless of ability.

The dome lends itself to  multiple uses.  Throughout the day, different programming will take advantage of the space, ranging from a space to watch news, classes for children, and community programming.  The day will culminate with political community discussions. By including other programs, people who  might not join political discussions will still have use of the space.