A central conference room in the Environmental Design building, typically referenced as ENVD 134A, has been reimagined, redesigned and repurposed. While it will still serve as a supplemental meeting space, its new main objective will be to safely and securely hold materials, not humans. “We have hundreds, maybe thousands of building samples, and they’re all spread out in offices, out in CINC, behind jammed doors,” Marcel de Lange, ENVD teaching professor explained. “We asked ourselves, what can we do with it?” For de Lange and Jared Arp, ENVD teaching assistant professor and co-lead on the project, the solution was simple: create a centralized and accessible materials library in an already centralized and accessible room.
The space will function less as a typical reference library and more as an experiential space. “It’s supposed to be exploratory,” Andrew Song, senior in product design commented. “It’s something we’ve been missing in this program. We don't often have access to physical examples of things we could use to build with.”
Such material examples include natural, metal and synthetic objects as well as building systems (such as small wall sections and joinery) so that students could visualize how these materials function in practice. The library will also contain a thorough reference section containing relevant design books and magazines, many of which were donated from local design firms. “All of our projects start with precedent research so this will be a nice area to do that,” Madison Svoboda, another senior in product design also working on the space said.
As part of an independent study course, the students working on the project have spent the summer retrofitting ENVD 134A: installing new carpet tiles to mitigate sound reflection, adding updated lighting systems and constructing floor-to-ceiling shelving units built to accommodate and showcase the variety of design materials. “We found a couple of ENVD students that wanted to take this on as an independent study because they felt like they were missing some of the hands-on design build type of experience,” de Lange explained. “Under our supervision, they conceived most of the things, got some critical feedback from us and now they’re putting it together.”
Much like the synergetic process behind the project itself, the finished library is meant to be a space for collaboration. With shelves set aside to highlight both student work and design displays, the hope is that the room will be fully accessible to faculty and students of all majors to share resources, access unique materials and find inspiration. “For the foreseeable future, it’s about going in and finding things that you didn’t even know existed,” Arp said.