In an effort to challenge the minds of budding designers, leading textile manufacturer Carnegie recently hosted a competition for students from four NYC design schools—Parsons School of Design, Pratt Institute, School of Visual Arts, and Fashion Institute of Technology—to create designs for high-performance wallcoverings made from thermoplastic olefin (TPO).
Mary Holt, executive vice president of creative at Carnegie, and respective professors, mentored the students through the design and development processes. They were tasked with envisioning a product that would be made of TPO, a "green" alternative to vinyl. In keeping with Carnegie’s environmental platform and PVC-free commitment, the competition encouraged student exploration of sustainable wallcovering materials and development of unique pattern, scale, and texture. TPO offers heightened performance and ease of cleaning without the health and environmental concerns of PVC’s chlorine chemistry.
“We feel it is critical for designers to understand the environmental concerns surrounding vinyl and to know there are more environmental options,” Holt said after the students’ mid-semester critique. “This process has been exciting, humbling, and inspiring; the vision of the future of design is holistic and optimistic.”
Students were guided through a six-week development process led by Carnegie designer Hyun Koh. They learned the process of creating artwork, developing repeats, and techniques of dimension and pattern that would be suitable for contract wallcovering application.
Twelve finalists were chosen from 60-plus entries and a panel of four judges with expertise in contract design convened at the Carnegie studio for critique and judging. Once selected, first-, second-, and third-place winners were presented with monetary awards. “The journey was a big part of this experience for both the students and for our creative team,” Holt said. “We learned and they learned and the results are unexpected and inspired.”
The first-place winner, Julia Grunberg, MFA, Parsons, developed a design proposal that described the benefits of combining TPO and tile, “intend[ed] to bring us closer to the nature of materials, their handcrafting and transformation, down to their application in the interior space….[B]y integrating the application of ceramic tile into TPO wallcoverings, we enhance and match some of the great properties TPO carries with the ones (durability and cleanability) embedded in ceramic tile.”
Alexandra Goldberg, MFA, Pratt, earned second place; third place, Mariel Levine and Caroline Edmondson, AAS, Parsons; and runner-up, Aldana Garcia, MFA, Pratt.