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11/01/2013

Forward Thinking in Action

To me, the movers and shakers of the design world are those who have taken the field to places we've never seen before. Here's a small celebration of some of my favorites.

By Felice Silverman, IIDA

 
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    The Beatbox, designed by Pernilla Ohrstedt for the 2012 Olympic Games.
    PHOTOGRAPH BY HUFTON + CROW / VIEW View larger

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    Bowspirit, the winning entry in the Street Seats program.
    Photograph By Greg MacKay View larger

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    The WA Chair by Katsuya Arai and Twofold by Katie MacDonald and Kyle Schumann of Cornell University were both featured in Design Museum Boston’s Street Seats program.
    Photograph By Greg MacKay View larger

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    The WA Chair by Katsuya Arai and Twofold by Katie MacDonald and Kyle Schumann of Cornell University were both featured in Design Museum Boston’s Street Seats program.
    Photograph By diana ye View larger

Designer Pernilla Ohrstedt has similarly made an impact with her highly experimental use of space and materials in architecture, installations and products, inspiring me and many others to think about design in new and unpredictable ways. The Beatbox, her interactive project commissioned by the Coca-Cola Company for the 2012 Olympic Games in London, integrated a playful, crystalline-like form made of inflated ETFE cushions with interactive audio and light technology to create a kinetic and fun space that connected young people to the spirit of the Games. The interactive element of the installation was particularly stimulating to designers like myself, as it triggered ideas for incorporating similar—albeit more practical—applications in interior projects, perhaps involving lighting or televisions with cycles of programmed “ambient” content.

Lastly, I feel it behooves me to note some of the institutions that have consistently dedicated themselves to carrying design out of our often-insular community and to the public at large. Perhaps most notable is the Smithsonian Cooper Hewitt, National Design Museum in New York, which was honored with the IIDA Star Award this year for its considerable contributions to the promotion of design since its inception more than 100 years ago.

Closer to home for me is Design Museum Boston, a particularly fascinating entity in that it has no fixed address. Instead, the museum creates its exhibitions and educational opportunities where design is happening, so that the surroundings reinforce the concepts being presented. A recent exhibit in Terminal E of Logan Airport illustrated how design shapes the travel experience, providing a little distraction and insight for those waiting to begin their own travel experience.

The museum also actively interacts with the city through initiatives like its Street Seats program, which invited interior designers, architects and industrial designers from around the world to redesign the humble park bench for Boston’s Innovation District. The competition yielded a field of 17 highly imaginative design solutions, the winner being the “Bowspirit” design from a team at the Georgia Institute of Technology consisting of Rui Chen, Christa Lee, Sanchit Mittal and Wendell Wilson. (A look at the full field of entries can be had at designmuseumboston.org.)

Events like this serve to heighten awareness of design in the Boston area for residents and visitors alike. When people happen upon one of these stylized benches—as commonplace an object as you’ll find in a public area—it forces them to think of something they thought they knew in a new and stimulating way.

That’s precisely what we look for in the spirit of innovation. It’s not about the shock of the new (although that’s certainly part of it), but the ability of a designer to take an idea, however familiar, in a new direction that suggests an undiscovered way of looking at the world. Perhaps the only thing more exciting than seeing groundbreaking design is knowing that each of us has the power to create it. What will you do with yours?

 

IIDA President Felice L. Silverman, IIDA is president and a principal at Silverman Trykowski Associates Inc. in Boston. You can reach IIDA at (312) 467-1950 or at iidahq@iida.org.


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