Now’s Your Last Chance to See a Walk-By Exhibition That’s All About Interior Design
Nowadays, interior design students are being tasked with not only conceiving single-level floor plans but also with transforming entire buildings into full-fledged commercial spaces. Such is the case at New York’s School of Visual Arts (SVA), which recently revealed its BFA Interior Design: Built Environments class of 2020 projects to the public.
Curated by senior thesis faculty Gita Nandan and Anthony Lee, “Buildings Transformed by Interior Design” presents the work of 15 international students who boldly reimagined existing structures for alternative uses. While the resulting edifices (which students began developing during summer 2019 and completed remotely in spring 2020) vary tremendously in aesthetic and function, they all demonstrate special attention to the social and environmental issues that plague the world today.
“I was trying to make an assessment of what these students had their fingers on because when it’s your thesis, it’s got to be something really dear to your heart,” SVA department chair Dr. Carol Bentel, a partner of Bentel & Bentel, the multigenerational firm behind famed restaurants such as Le Bernardin, The Modern at MoMA, and Gramercy Tavern, says to AD PRO. “Everyone created something that was ‘save the planet’ or ‘take care of other people,’ and yet they were all very [original]. [The students] made these decisions prior to the pandemic, the [Black Lives Matter protests], and the election turmoil of this year.” Fittingly, thanks to the fact that the exhibition is staged in an SVA window space, it’s entirely viewable to outdoor passersby.
The completed designs range from cultural spaces, museums, and wellness centers to community-focused meeting points for children, trans and LGBTQ+ individuals, and recovering alcoholics. Hwanil Chang, a recipient of the prestigious Angelo Donghia Foundation scholarship, masterminded Ideal Power Station, which merges an anaerobic digester power station with an exhibition space, green-land system, and hotel. With Nexus, student Mengqi Wu poetically envisions a human composting center that also functions as a funeral home. “By allowing organic processes to transform bodies and those of loved ones into a useful soil amendment, the process helps to strengthen our relationship to the natural cycles while enriching the earth,” she writes in her project statement.
Speaking further to AD PRO, Bentel adds, “Sustainability and adaptive reuse are a huge part of our curriculum, and we talk a lot about behavioral change. We teach our students that we do interior design to help human beings. We aren’t doing it to make things pretty. It doesn’t mean there isn’t value in aesthetics—there is—but you should look beyond that to say, ‘What can I do that will make people behave in a different way that will make them healthier?’”