Two groups of Philadelphia University interior design students have won the 2016-2017 Interior Design Educators Council (IDEC) East Region Student Design Competition. With the win, the teams of Kaitlin Johnson, Monica Tabet and Samantha Ringer, as well as Bridget Sax, Sarah DePinto and Giana Castelli moved on to the finals and had their projects on display at the IDEC National Conference in Chicago earlier this month.
The competition focused on the Amazon rainforest, indigenous populations and the role of education and service learning in an effort to preserve them. Organizers asked participants to consider how their project will illustrate the power of research and evidence-based design in a global context.
Both PhilaU teams designed a volunteer training center for Amazon rainforest conservation. Johnson, Tabet and Ringer were inspired by mycorrhiza, a complex network of fungus that allows for interspecies communication between plants. “They can send nutrients to plants in need and support one another, similarly to the ideas behind volunteer work,” Johnson explained. “We created flexible spaces that integrate innovative technology with a community atmosphere that fosters both learning and human communication.”
In the space, volunteers would prepare for months-long excursions to the Amazon rainforest through hands-on activities, plant education, climate and sound appropriation and even clothing exercises, Castelli said of her team’s project.
“Our concept stemmed from looking up at a vast tree canopy—shadows breaking through all of the leaves,” she said. “This concept is reflected through a system of suspended wood panels that hang under various skylights to create these shadows, as well as furniture that reflects the panel systems.”
As shown by the two winning projects, PhilaU interior design faculty members Lisa Phillips and Sue Seip challenged the students to set the bar high, said Lauren Baumbach, director of the interior design and interior architecture programs. “We know the students are good, and we want them to experience success first hand by participating in competitions and finding out that they can win. This affirms their capability and excellence.”
The competition drew submissions from schools across the Northeast and parts of Canada. IDEC works toward the advancement of interior design education, scholarship and service.