Designers to Watch

06.01.2016
By Kadie Yale , Christopher Curtland, Robert Nieminen

We here at i+s have had the honor of meeting so many wonderful and talented designers over the years, and now we’d like to return the favor. Every month we will be introducing design students recognized by their institution for going above and beyond. Today they’re stunning their professors in the classrooms; tomorrow they’ll be stunning the world.

Recently, Editor-in-Chief Kadie Yale visited the campus of Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) to find out firsthand how students are discovering creative design possibilities conceptually, and exploring and developing practical design solutions and applications for all types of interior environments. In our search for trend setters for this month’s issue, Adjunct Professor Sara Reed, Ph. D., recommended we focus our attention on three recent graduates of VCU’s Interior Design program who are just entering the field as professionals but show a great deal of promise based on their thought-provoking graduate theses and careers as design students.

Thomas Kennedy’s graduate research was focused on understanding how spaces can respond to growing gaps between digital and physical states of being. His thesis project, Virtual/Reality, explored the concept of permeable space as a tool for regenerating and re-contextualizing local communities in the digital age.

Kennedy reimagined a typical modern office building as a mixed-use space that softens the boundaries between public and private activity. The interior was designed to house a digital co-working office, a cooperative grocery market, and plentiful public space for the community, including gardens.

Through the use of porous boundaries, open structures, layered programming, and the poetics of opacity, the project aims to reduce barriers and foster social connection between interior and exterior. Workspaces seep into an open-air atrium, allowing the sound and motion of public activity to become part of the everyday work experience, and be reminders of local activity that we are too often detached from while plugged into our phones and computers. The space becomes a watermelon on a hot day, a sometimes messy, but always wonderful experience that invites interaction and draws people together.

Kennedy will be continuing his design career this summer at Baskervill Architects in Richmond, Virg. He enjoys making new connections—digital and physical—so please say hello at kennedytr@vcu.edu.

Julia Rubert is a recent graduate from the VCU Interior Design program. When she wasn’t in the studio, she was active around campus as she was the Student President of the International Interior Design Association (IIDA) Student Chapter at VCU, a VCU Student Government Senator, and a member of the VCU Notochords A Cappella Ensemble.

In her design work, she draws inspiration from the client, user, and site, and searches for the innate relationships between the three. She often uses color as a tool to visually cue zones of activity and help navigate the user through the space. She also strives to create sustainable and locally relevant designs. Julia is looking forward to relocating to the Washington, D.C. area and hoping to work within the interior design department of an architecture firm that is passionate about sustainable design.

Jessie Walton is a recent graduate of the Interior Environments MFA Program at VirginiaCommonwealth University. Her thesis work centered on the need for greater racial diversity within design communities, in addition to exploring divisions of interior space using continuous geometries. By using five-inch strips of plywood as a metaphorical ribbon, her exploration looked at a range of compact and expansive spaces. Jessie presented her thesis research at the IDEC 2016 Annual Conference in Portland, Oregon and was the recipient of the IDEC Award of Excellence for Best Poster Presentation. Her areas of design interest include community-based design, furniture design, and commercial and residential interiors. She can be reached via email at jessielwalton@gmail.com.