Hidden throughout the R.W. Kern Center are secret puzzles, all related to the building and the Living Building Challenge. They were created in 2016 by Hampshire professor Ira Fay in collaboration with many others. During construction, the Wright Builders team crafted and installed the puzzles, contributing their artistry to the tradition of game design at Hampshire. Ignite your curiosity and get solving!

*As featured in the New York Times!

Letters carved into the underside of stairs at the R.W. Kern Center

1

Difficulty: Medium-Hard

“When you first walk into the building, you see a beautiful, large staircase leading to the second floor. Because the bottom of the steps are exposed, it was an obvious puzzle location, and this was the first puzzle I designed for this project.” -Ira

Hint 1

The letters are a cipher.

Hint 2

Each step matters.

Hint 3

Each letter shifts backward in the alphabet based on its step.

2

Difficulty: Easy

“Five-year-old students in the Early Learning Center created the poem in collaboration with their teachers and the students in Professor Rachel Conrad’s poetry course.” -Ira

Hint 1

Look carefully at the poem.

Hint 2

The small squiggles/waves are signficant.

Hint 3

Each letter with squiggle spells a phrase. Apply that phrase to the poem to solve the puzzle.

3

Difficulty: Medium

“I wanted puzzles that encouraged visitors to explore the amazing space of the Kern Center while paying close attention to things that might not otherwise get scrutiny.” -Ira

Hint 1

Don’t dash by this puzzle.

Hint 2

Pac Man really likes eating dots.

Hint 3

Use Morse code, and consider both orientations.

4

Difficulty: Hardest!

“I wanted some puzzles that would be easy, and some that would be hard; this is the hardest puzzle! To meet the LBC, the Kern Center construction didn’t add superfluous materials, so the bolts on each of the beams are exposed. I [wanted] visitors to notice areas of the building that otherwise would be ignored.” -Ira

Hint 1

Each beam represents one letter.

Hint 2

Try trinary. (I told you this was the hardest puzzle!) The upper left hole is the 9s digit.

Hint 3

The first beam is the letter R. The lower left hole is the 3s digit, and lower right is the 1s digit. Bolt caps in the OUT position equal 2, IN equals 1, and empty equals 0.

5

Difficulty: Hard

“It might be easy to miss in the hustle and bustle of going up and down steps, but a puzzle here encourages vistors to stop for a moment and notice the wonderful components of the building.” -Ira

Hint 1

When looking at the puzzle, tilt your head to the left periodically.

Hint 2

The answer is a four letter word. Periodically consider the small hint, too.

Hint 3

The grid represents the right part of the periodic table of elements. The two marked squares must be combined to form the answer (4 letters).

6

Difficulty: Easy-Medium

“This puzzle ended up being my favorite visual puzzle, and I designed it in collaboration with my brother, Alex Fay. I also particularly like the location in the building for this puzzle, since it’s a back stairwell that many visitors might miss; I wanted visitors to really explore the building to find all ten puzzles.” -Ira

Hint 1

You might need a new perspective to solve this puzzle.

Hint 2

Walking up and down steps is good exercise. Things are looking up!

Hint 3

Stand immediately below the canvas print and look up.

Timber column with black letters and shapes on it.

7

Difficulty: Hard

“I saw this column near the entrance to what was going to be the financial aid area. The column was in a noticeable spot, and called attention to itself. It seemed like a great place for a puzzle, especially since visitors might enjoy some entertainment while waiting for their appointment.” -Ira

Hint 1

Opposites attract.

Hint 2

The answer has 6 letters.

Hint 3

Combine opposite sides of the column to form 6 letters, then unscramble the letters.

8

Difficulty: Hard

I wanted puzzles that encouraged visitors to notice aspects of the building they might otherwise miss. By placing a puzzle high on the ceiling, visitors observe the beautiful and functional pattern of pipes in the room. I found them striking when I noticed them, so I designed a puzzle for that area.” -Ira

Hint 1

Each column of pipe clamps is one letter.

Hint 2

Think binary. There are 8 bits in a byte.

Hint 3

Try ASCII codes.

9

Difficulty: Medium-Hard

“I wanted a variety of puzzle types throughout the building, and this one is a nice visual puzzle that takes advantage of this particular space. In its current form, this puzzle is only possible at this location in the building, which offers visitors a new way to view the space.” -Ira

Hint 1

Notice the medallion.

Hint 2

You might need to bang your head against the wall to solve this one! (Don’t literally bang your head against the wall.)

Hint 3

Put your head at the medallion and look through the glass to identify the 6 letters in this answer. Unscramble them based on the number of sides for each shapes.

10

Difficulty: Hard

“I wanted the puzzles to be distributed around the building, encouraging visitors to search for them. It seemed useful to have some way to denote that a puzzle was nearby, and we settled on these ~4″ diameter metal medallions. They are made of aluminum and created using a screen printing technique (and other processes) devised by Tom Brown.” -Ira

Hint 1

This is the meta-puzzle.

Hint 2

You will need the answers to all (or almost all) of the other puzzles before you can solve this one. Each other puzzle provides 1 letter for the answer to this puzzle.

Hint 3

The numbers in this puzzle correspond to which letter you should use from the answers to the other puzzles. The second letter of the answer to this puzzle is A.

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