McKenzie Canaday tests the bubble mechanisms on the unfinished structure before it’s shipped to Orlando. Photo by Alexandria Sands.

Effervesce. It means to give off bubbles, to be vivacious, to show enthusiasm or liveliness.

These are the words that describe how a group of UNC Charlotte designers want the victims of the Pulse nightclub shooting to be remembered.

It’s also what they named their structure that stood in the American Institute of Architects (AIA) Conference of Architecture this past weekend in Orlando.

The structure was the winning design of the AIA 2017 competition, which called for teams to create a “sense of place” in a 10 by 10 by 8-foot space and fit the theme of “reflection.”

When acknowledging the theme as well as the location of the event, the team began to reflect on the tragedy which transpired close to a year ago in the same city.

The Pulse Nightclub shooting was a hate crime against the LGBT community. A 29-year-old man killed 49 people and wounded 53 others at a gay nightclub on June 12, 2016.

What the team came up with was a plastic, lattice wall that would be placed in the middle of the site in which it was designed for, allowing participants to orbit the wall. The wall consists of 49 vessels, each representing a life taken at the shooting, with the name of the victim etched on them. These vessels contain bubble mechanisms that allow for those interacting with the structure to blow bubbles through the wall, therefore the name effervesce.

“The bubble is blown and released into the air leaving the person blowing the bubble to reflect upon the shooting and also connect with anyone on the other side of the wall that may be a reflection of their thoughts or emotions,” student designer Claire Shue said.

Those working on the creation of the structure were architecture professors Marc Manack and Rachel Dickey, Director of Fabrication Labs Alex Cabral, Visiting Professor McKenzie Canaday and students Jon Warner and Shue.

The structure began solely as a design for the competition, but after learning they had won over spring break, the team had to bring their vision to life.

“We wanted the piece to be not so much an object but really an event,” said Manack. “We talked about the idea that the memorial should not only remember those we’ve lost but also celebrate joy and life and be really vivid.”

The bubble mechanisms face both directions of the wall, so those interacting can be face-to-face.

“There was a level of intimacy that we wanted to create with the project,” Cabral said.

Manack said the idea of blowing bubbles began as an “offhanded comment.”

Pieces of the structure lay out on a table in Storrs Hall. Photo by Alexandria Sands.

“As soon as they said it I was like, ‘That’s what we’re doing,’” Manack said.

By taking apart bubble guns and studying them, Canaday was able to figure out how the bubble mechanisms would need to work in order to function properly with their design.

Shue and Warner were chosen to be a part of the team based on their work in the studio and involvement on campus. They spent weeks creating the gradient for the design, ensuring it was perfect.

The team outsourced to Iconix Metal Works, a company in Gastonia, where they received help from Jim Warren, who they now consider a part of the team.

Currently, the structure is receiving a redesign on campus and will soon be donated to its permanent home, the LGBT community center in Orlando, one of the primary centers that is helping the victims of the shooting.

“We thought since it was designed for Orlando, it belonged in Orlando, especially because it was speaking to a specific community and a specific event,” Manack said.

Alexandria Sands is the Niner Times' community editor. She is a senior majoring in Communication Studies with a double minor in Journalism and English. Her work has been published in Charlotte magazine, The Charlotte Business Journal, Creative Loafing, The Gaston Gazette, The Shelby Star and The State Port Pilot. When she's not in the newsroom, you can catch her reading a book at her home in Oak Island. Reach her at or @alexsands_.