By Amber Friedrichsen and Whitney Baxter
What do you get when you bring together students from two colleges to work on a project? Innovative and creative results.
Students from Iowa State University’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and College of Design joined forces Nov. 13-14 to take part in a design charrette – a short, collaborative session during which a group of people come together to draft a solution to a design problem. The students were tasked with creating design concepts for two CALS-owned collaborative learning labs, rooms 4227 and 4229, on the fourth floor of the new Student Innovation Center.
“We have been planning this for about three months. The idea came from appreciating that we have these two beautiful collaborative learning spaces, but they don’t really have any design elements,” said Carmen Bain, CALS associate dean of academic innovation. “There is furniture and there is technology, but there is nothing in the rooms to tell the story of CALS, what we represent, or what innovation looks like in the college.”
The two rooms, funded by Farm Credit Services of America, are the first thing people see when they exit the elevator on the fourth floor, so designing them in a way that communicates what CALS is all about is essential.
“This a huge opportunity for those two rooms to communicate something about the nature of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and our touchpoints with other colleges through our many interdisciplinary programs,” Daniel J. Robison, holder of the Dean’s Endowed Chair in CALS, told students during the event’s opening ceremony.
After a brief introduction outlining the goal of the charrette, which included the desire to have designs represent the diversity of CALS departments and programs, the 34 participating students split into eight teams.
The pressure was on as students received their assignments: they were asked to create a digital presentation explaining ideas behind their design, a large presentation board showing off the elements of their design, and a physical 3D model to scale. To conclude the event, they would give a 20-minute presentation to the judges, which included deans from both colleges, a representative from Farm Credit Services and two CALS faculty members.
The teams began surveying the two rooms, taking measurements and pictures to give them a better feel of the space. From there, they spent the rest of Saturday and Sunday morning working together on design ideas to transform the spaces into exciting environments that could convey a sense of CALS’ presence on campus.
For Stefany Naranjo, senior in global resource systems and agricultural and life sciences education – communications option, the opportunity to think outside the box and learn about design concepts from College of Design students was a new experience.
“It was definitely a learning curve and such a collaborative effort because we were learning from our peers and getting to apply our knowledge right away. You just got lost in the creativity,” Naranjo said.
Sunday afternoon, excitement was palpable as the teams presented their proposals, describing the purposes, look and messages embodied in each design.
The winning team, “Deep Roots,” included Maeve Cleary, senior in agricultural studies, Marwa Elkashif, graduate student in graphic design, Jenna Errthum, senior in horticulture, Norah Larson, sophomore in interior design, and Laura Maschino, senior in interior design. Their design represents life, providing for others and nourishment. It features ceiling décor that replicates plant roots and a casual lounging area in the middle of the space, in shades of brown, green, gold and red.
Errthum said her team tried to come up with ways to show the diversity of CALS programs and incorporate design elements to make the room accessible for all audiences.
“In our room, we thought of making a space where people would just feel at home,” Errthum said.
She appreciated the chance to push herself to thrive in a situation that was out of her comfort zone.
“Learning about design was so interesting. I would have never been able to do these concepts without those designers and graphic designers,” she added. “It was so interdisciplinary, and I think the actual journey of the entire thing and the pride I feel because of it is what I’m going to take away.”
As a reward for the students’ efforts, the top three teams got to choose to have dinner with a group of professionals.
“I think this event is very much in the spirit of the Student Innovation Center, and our hope is that it will encourage students to appreciate the importance of collaborating across disciplines – both within our college and across colleges,” Bain said. “We had 12 majors from both colleges represented on these teams, so I think they will take away the value of interdisciplinary collaboration, and the importance of thinking out of the box in creative ways and in innovative ways to take on a problem.”
In the spring, faculty from CALS and Design will work with students involved in the charrette to develop and implement ideas from the winning designs.
Other winning designs
Second place team – “Growth”
- Alexa Diaz, junior in interior design, Quentin Dixon, senior in graphic design, Zhaorui Liu, senior in graphic design, and Whitney Winter, junior in animal ecology
- Design incorporated all 28 majors into a mural on the wall and represented the history and the future of agriculture with shades of green, blue and tan.
Third place team – “Connections”
- Silvia Alam, graduate student in interior design, Rebecca Johnson, senior in agronomy, Taylor Lekin, senior in agriculture and society, and Lin Pizzo, senior in interior design
- Designed one room to be a conference room to connect people to people, and the other room as a collaborative working space to connect people to the environment. The design included a soil profile in place of the interior window with shades of blue, green and brown.