The Trust Maze: The Making of Our Seattle Design Festival Installation

Seattle Architects CLARK | BARNES have designed an exhibit for the Seattle Design Festival that runs September 8-9, 2018 in Pioneer Square. The theme of the 2018 Seattle Design Festival is ‘TRUST’.  Our installation explores each individual’s trust of their fellow human as well as tests their willingness to provide trustworthy information themselves. Our Seattle Architecture and Interior Design Teams are hard at work creating the installation. We will provide more information about the installation as we progress here, so check back often for more updates!

Learn more about the installation on Design in Public’s website!

Deep In Thought:

The installation went through many iterations in our shop, with many scale options taped off. Pictured, Derek Smith is deep in thought on how to best modify the design. They eventually chose to construct the maze from ¾” plywood & 3/8” plywood and wood glue.

Creating an Executable Construction Plan:

To refine our material palette, a 50% scale mockup was made using a variety of materials. Derek is pictured here trimming some wood, while Drew hides behind another option. “We always planned to use plywood, but exploded different connection methods and spandrel panel materials.” Derek Smith said, “We originally planned to connect each fin with a threaded rod that would penetrate the full length of each wall. We couldn’t use this technique due to excessive torsion in the fins. Essentially the fins wouldn’t stay in the desired angle at the corners and would rotate in place. The transparent spandrels were successful from a construction perspective but were eventually removed for design reasons. We decided it would be more conducive to our concept if people couldn’t see into the exhibit.”

Know your site:

Part of the team visited our prime (thanks, Design in Public) site in Pioneer Square. This was critical in creating an installation that would respond well to the grade of the area.

The installation will respond to all site conditions to make sure that the end users experience a “next-level” SDF experience. Excuse marketing’s awkward puns, but its gonna be great!

The team has been cutting multiple panels per piece maximizing the use of the raw materials (below) while minimizing waste.


In order to properly and efficiently assemble the walls and fins, the team created a mold in which the panels can be built. The construction tolerance of the plywood was the most difficult part of the execution! Our design consisted of highly specific angled connections between plywood fins and spandrel panels. Very few of the connections between spandrel panels were right-angle connections, which required creative clamping devices to apply constant pressure through the centroid of each intersection. If a connection between two pieces was not perfect, the subsequent pieces would require adjustments to achieve uniform adhesion.

After the plywood fins and spandrel panels were cut, each panel was glued using a horizontal (on the ground) jig to stabilize each piece while they were glued and clamped together. Each glued piece took approximately 1 hour and each overall panel took 1 day to assemble. Half of the construction time consisted of building the jig. Here is a sample of 1 of the 10 panels for The Trust Maze!

The panels continue to come together, and you can see how the curves on the interior transition from panel to panel and mold perception while in the space! All told the team worked for about 6 weeks to execute the design.

Many thanks to everyone who assisted in the construction process: Including Drew Brooks, Derek Smith, Kate Gilbert, David Whittlesey, Gaurav Badera, Jingwen Liu, Xueqing Tong, Brenda Barnes, Barry Shuman and Brandon S. Peters!