Happenings: Thesis Highlights

The next crop of graduates—and potential design stars—present their innovative concepts that embrace the future and the communities they hope to create.

by AnnMarie Martin

The student thesis presentations we saw this spring were so impressive, we've extended our coverage into the heat summer. The New York School of Interior Design and the Harrington College of Design in Chicago are two of the finest design schools in the country from where we stand (which is all over!), and they were gracious enough to allow us to peek into their classrooms and get a glimpse of the innovative design thinking that’s emerging from the next crop of design graduates. We’ve identified a few future design stars amongst the rows who are breaking some exciting new ground, and we wanted you to “read all about it” here first, before these recent grads hit the scene. Enjoy!

New York School of Interior Design
BFA Anne Aristya’s thesis project is a decidedly novel fusion of work and play as her mixed use project, 1.5 Place, integrates the needs of the modern-day working professional and traveler: technology, flexibility, and collaboration. It takes the ever-evolving relationship between one’s personal and professional lives and applies it to a hotel space in elegant fashion.

Alison Fidler, another NYSID BFA, presented the Red Hook Center for Design & Manufacturing, which addresses a socioeconomic rift happening in this Brooklyn community where artists and artisans are moving into an area in which more than 70 percent of its residents live in government housing. Inspired by the process of “breaking down walls,” these artisans are given workspace in exchange for their work with area students, effectively bringing together these two seemingly disparate communities.

Harrington College of Design
Amy Vail focused her master's thesis project on the adaptive reuse of an abandoned wireless station on the island of Oahu, Hawaii, transforming it into a boutique hotel and cultural center that includes a food market, classrooms, food tasting bar, and restaurant where guests can learn about sustainable practices, local foods, and traditional cooking techniques. Her project was spawned from this native Hawaiian’s belief that design should deeply reflect a culture’s relationship with nature and honor the history behind it.

The aim of Cynthia Alvarez’s thesis project was to design Chicago’s version of New York City’s The New School, creating an all-in-one vertical campus complete with dormitories located on Wabash Avenue. Her design illustrates how students successfully learn in collaborative environments through technological innovations and a studio-based floor plan. She places strong emphasis on the layering of pattern and shapes in order to achieve complexity.