Designs for Flexibility

Designs for Flexibility

Students in Intermittancy – an Interior Architecture (IA) studio taught by Critic Michael Beaman – are among the first to be using the state-of-the-art equipment in RISD’s collaborative Co-Works space as they propose various redesign solutions for RISD WORKS, the retail shop on the ground floor of the Chace Center. Last year Amee Spondike, director of development and external affairs at the RISD Museum, approached IA Department Head Liliane Wong with the idea of enlisting RISD students to take on the project.

“The main goals of the class are to introduce students to digital manufacturing and teach them to work computationally,” says Beaman. “We’re developing designs that will allow the museum to present the alumni work it sells in a more curated, focused and adaptable way.”

RISD WORKS showcases everything from small, handcrafted jewelry items to furniture, books and ceramics, so there’s clearly no single display case that would be suitable for all of its products. “Due to space limitations, they tend to offer a lot of tabletop items designed by Industrial Design alums,” says Beaman. “We’re hoping to come up with some ideas that will allow for a more diverse representation of alumni work and perhaps give them the option of temporarily focusing on one medium – like textiles.”

The 12 undergraduate and graduate students taking the studio warmed up to the task with a project that explored modularity and joinery using a very simple material: paper. From there they moved on to digitally design 3D-printed solids made up of modulated units – combinations of shapes that are similar but not exactly the same. They’ve since split into four groups, each of which is working on a different proposal for the RISD WORKS redesign.

“Some of the systems students are designing are built out of curved pieces that are difficult to make by hand and much more viable thanks to digital technology,” says Beaman. Making full use of the high-tech equipment at Co-Works, they’re fabricating work with laser cutters, 3D printers and a resin printer, for example, and using Rhino software and a Grasshopper plug-in that allows them to write custom code.

“Since the tools are often invented to do something else, it can take a novice or outsider to hack into the technology and come up with a new purpose,” Beaman explains. “Fortunately for us, [Co-Works Studio Technology Coordinator] David Kim MFA 14 DM is open to safe experimentation.”

In April, Spondike, RISD WORKS Store Director Charles Flora and Sarah Ganz, the museum’s deputy director of exhibitions, education and programs, provided feedback on the initial proposals. Students are now using that feedback to fine-tune their ideas and build “topographies” or platforms of varying heights out of corrugated cardboard.

The best of the systems will be displayed in the lobby of the Chace Center from Friday, May 22 through May 29. Members of the RISD community are invited to check them out and provide feedback.

Simone Solondz

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