The Feeling of Flight
RISD students created a massive installation as part of their final project for a studio sponsored by Cessna Aircraft Company.
As Christian Truscinski MArch 15 lumbers along a network of metal scaffolding beneath the rafters of a dusty warehouse in Central Falls, RI, he manages to maintain balance and composure while carefully looping rope ties around the building’s steel beams. The fabric fasteners are attached to huge swaths of Spandex that—when pulled taught—transform into ethereal canopies stretching across the entire 600-sf space.
“While the visual experience from the floor offered the observer clean smooth lines, the mechanics of the installation involved intricate trussing with industrial materials,” reflects Truscinski. “Much like the actual experience of flight, the observer enjoys the peacefulness and beauty of the end product only thanks to the detailed technical engineering that makes that experience possible.”
Assistant Professor of Interior Architecture Yugon Kim and Senior Critic in Glass Chris Taylor MFA 02 GL teamed up to teach the spring studio, which built on conceptual themes developed in The Shape of Flight, a related Wintersession seminar. In that five-week course, students explored the nuances of flight and developed theoretical scenarios meant to elevate the experience of commercial flight. Cessna’s designers intend to look to the outcomes of both studios as inspiration for future aircraft designs.
“The Space of Flight is the next phase of our experimental design lab,” notes Taylor. “Students have been focused on making tangible work that encapsulates the physical and emotional feelings of flight. I’m pleased to say, they rose to the challenge and executed this project brilliantly.”
Before drafting blueprints of their design, students experienced the feeling of flying in a small, eight-person plane out of Rhode Island’s T.F. Green Airport and felt the exhilarating joy of zero gravity during a field trip to an indoor rock climbing gym. After being harnessed to a pulley system and clambering up to the top of a craggy façade, they were told to let go and jump. “There’s a moment of panic right after you begin to free fall,” notes Truscinski. “It’s a heart-stopping moment.”
For additional inspiration, students attended an exhibition of work by Douglas Wheeler, an American artist known for creating trippy, light-saturated environments, at the David Zwirner gallery in New York. “That was a highlight of the studio,” explains Katherine Porter MDes 15. “We began to understand how large-scale optical illusions alter your sense of place and perspective.”
To the delight of the art and design students involved, a group of interior and industrial designers from Cessna attended the final critique in the warehouse space, offering helpful feedback on how well they managed to convey the intangible aspects of flight. “Our customers often comment on the beautiful light-filled cabin and calming experience of flight high above the clouds,” notes Cindy Halsey, senior vice president of interior design engineering at Cessna. “These students have created an impressive installation that captures much of the same feelings one experiences in high altitude flight.”
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