Terrace Chairs

Close-up of yellow, green, and orange sunburst chairs at the Un

The colors of the sunburst chairs were chosen to celebrate the seasons and evoke Wisconsin farming traditions: John Deere green, and Allis-Chalmers orange and yellow. Photos by Jeff Miller

first version of the Terrace chair created

current sunburst chair design implemented

days that the chairs were outside in 2017 (varies yearly)

annual budget for new chairs

price for the public to buy a red or white chair (only colors available for purchase)

chairs on the Terrace at any given time

chairs budgeted to be replaced annually

When gray snow and frigid winter days begin to fade, spring reintroduces some of our favorite things to campus: sunshine, picnics on Bascom Hill, and the iconic Memorial Union Terrace chairs.

The sunburst design — perhaps Madison’s most recognizable symbol — sparks fond memories of times spent hanging out with friends and gazing at Lake Mendota’s many moods.

Following the Union’s years of renovation, staff and student leaders decided to start a new tradition. Since 2016, they’ve invited eager students and community members to join the fun of opening the Terrace and populating it with the green, yellow, and orange chairs.

Sometime in early April (depending on the weather, but it’s often a little chilly), Union staff puts out a call for Terrace lovers to prepare for the chairs’ return. Volunteers line up an hour in advance, waiting for facilities staff to unload trucks and line the chairs up along the side of the building.

With a signal given via megaphone, volunteers carry the chairs down to the Terrace, passing by members of the always-entertaining Badger Band and a very happy Bucky Badger.

The sunburst season has officially begun.

“Terrace season means it’s time to start building connections, having a good time, running into past friends, and enjoying some sun,” says Iffat Bhuiyan ’18, last year’s Wisconsin Union student president.

The final touch to the day? Free Babcock Dairy ice cream and the first of many relaxing times on the Terrace.


  • John Coburn May 30, 2023

    Keep this up … great fun!

    In 1965 I served as Chairman of the Wisconsin Symposium … an annual, week-long series of
    speeches by well-known (some even famous) people from the U.S. and the world. In my year the topic was Foreign Affairs, and we brought in diplomats and well-known experts in the U.S. and foreign nations.

    I’ve been thinking about calling the Chancellor to explain to her what the Wisconsin Symposium was … and whether it might be of interest to both the faculty and to the student body to revive it in 2024.

    John Coburn’65 (nickname “Jeff)
    274 Beacon Street
    Boston, MA 02116

  • Peter Christianson July 9, 2023

    I think that’s a great idea, Jeff!

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