Styling Scholarly Space

Styling Scholarly Space

Once the Perry and Marty Granoff Center for the Creative Arts was completed in February 2011, students and faculty began hosting lively theater performances, thoughtful exhibitions and interdisciplinary lectures in the five-story, 35,000-square-foot space in the heart of the Brown campus.

However, members of the Granoff Center for the Creative Arts Council – an arts organization dedicated to fostering innovation and creativity in the Brown community – faced a conundrum: They couldn’t find appropriate furniture for five study nooks on the landings of the building’s central stairs. Educators had originally imagined the spaces as comfortable places for students to catch up on reading or engage in impromptu academic discussions.

The solution arrived when Richard Fishman 63 SC, a Brown professor and Council member who teaches in the Department of Visual Art, visited a final critique in RISD’s Furniture Design department the same spring the Granoff Center opened. Inspired by the incredible graduate student work under review, the sculptor recruited Scot Bailey MFA 12 FD, Taylor McKenzie-Veal MFA 12 FD, Ian Stell MFA 12 FD and Yumi Yoshida 11 FD to design site-specific furniture for the landings. In February the new pieces were unveiled and are now in use.

“This team of extraordinary students created a sweep of fun throughout the building,” notes Fishman. “I am deeply inspired by the creativity exhibited by these RISD designers.”

The designers developed three striking yet very usable pieces: a couch, a lounge chair and a stool that doubles as a side table. Each of the geometric shapes can be easily reconfigured to accommodate a range of activities in the study nooks, including readings, small performances and exhibitions. “The Granoff Center is an architectural masterpiece,” notes McKenzie-Veal. “An impressive building needs impressive furniture.”

Inspired by the hues found in a box of crayons, the designers upholstered each of the upbeat pieces with fabrics saturated with neon oranges, vibrant reds and cool blues. “We wanted the furniture to contrast with the grey tones of the building,” explains Stell.

To keep production costs down, the designers employed local vendors to produce components. Employees of Goetz Boats, a company based in Bristol, RI, manufactured the fiberglass shells for the couches using CNC machines. And AJ Read, a textiles company in Exeter, RI, handled the upholstery needs.

The designers also considered the ergonomics of their furniture. “The pieces should be inviting. But we didn’t want users to become too comfortable while seated [on them],” Stell says. “There’s a certain amount of rigidity in the designs.” –Abigail Crocker

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