Thursday, May 19, 2011

Classroom of the Future, Designed by Students

If you talk to anyone today about the current state of grade school education, you'll virtually open up a Pandora's box of all sorts of problems and issues.  But this project, with a bunch of talented eighth grade students in New York shows that these kids have a lot to offer, and proves that design has a valid role in the classroom and should be integrated along with all the other basics like math and science.  Perhaps this seems like a hard fight when violence and budget cuts steal most of the media attention, but I still find it one more valid concern to add to the mix.

The project was called Tools at Schools and was done in association with Bernhardt Design, Aruliden, and The School at Columbia University where students were asked to design the school of the future.  They became immersed in the entire design process from research and concept, sketching, 3d drawing, and creating scaled models.  For the academics out there, you'll be relieved to know this incorporated such established disciplines as math, statistics, and language as they worked with communication, graphics, and overall design.  Then to make it even cooler, their drawings were actually turned into production drawings and manufactured.  Final prototypes were featured at this year's ICFF (International Contemporary Furniture Fair, for those who don't know) in New York City this past week.  Honestly, how cool is that to have your homework assignment actually come to life?!  (I'm seriously jealous of these kids!)

My favorite quote is from one of the students, "I used to think that design was really exotic and abstract.  Before Tools at Schools the first thing I would think of when I heard the word 'design' was fashion, things that Lady Gaga would wear.  It amazes me to think back and see how off I was.  I have opened my eyes to see that everything around me is designed: the computer I work with, the jewelry I wear and even the pencil I use."

Some highlights of the final design included a smart tray that sits at the edge of the desk, allowing a student to prop up a book, hold art supplies, or act as a keeper for various objects used during a science experiment.  Strategically placed hooks keep backpacks close at hand but out of the way.  And the color gradation on the lockers is a refreshing change from that sea of identical metal boxes typically lining the halls.

The kids actually created some beautiful and functional stuff, as you can see from the previous photos.  With the fresh eyes kids bring to the world, why not incorporate more design projects into the curriculum in all realms, even solving some of the world's perplexing social problems.  They might just learn something in the process, and actually teach us "experts" a thing or two along the way.  I mean, look in all the classrooms around you.  Is the furniture there as cool as this?  I didn't think so.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Pop-Up Books

There are many places to go for inspiration such as a walk on the beach, the lobby of a hip, new hotel, or my current obsession; pinterest. But one of my favorite go-to spots whether I'm panic stricken over a looming deadline, or just want to kill a rainy afternoon is an architectural bookstore. Granted, I love all types of bookstores, but there's just something special about one devoted entirely to design books. So I was thrilled to learn about this pop up architecture bookstore in Manhattan, Van Alen Books.

I love technology as much as the next guy, but I find something sad about the potential for all books to go the way of the Kindle. Don't get me wrong, I love the ability to have your entire library on one device, but there just isn't a digital replacement for the act of flipping through a beautiful book filled with glossy design images.  So I'm in full support of this venue which aims to prove that print isn't dead. Although, they admit that it isn't what it used to be which is why this shop is part bookstore, part public forum.

LOT-EK was the firm that designed this eye-catching space on West 22nd Street. The look is in keeping with their gritty urban style. The main focal point of the space is bleacher-style seating made from recycled doors. To see their original concept images and learn more about their design, click here.

All photos are from the opening party last month and can be found in the Archidose Flickr stream.