The response to this challenge was as varied as the students who designed the spaces.
Spring 2010 at the College of Design, University of Minnesota this author (and editor of this magazine), taught an undergraduate-level product innovation and new materials course called “(Un)Wrapping it All Up: New Materials for Design: Design for New Materials.” The course took students from many disciplines (class included journalism, advertising, retail merchandising, graphic design and architecture majors) and threw them together to explore fabric, a material that is virtually unknown to designers as a medium with which to make things like tools, informational devices or complete environments.
After a semester-long course of exploring the potentials and creative inspiration of specialty textiles, students (in teams of two or three) were challenged to design a project that would combine all of the knowledge they’d accumulated throughout the semester, including insight from three earlier design projects, a research paper on a specialty textile, and several lectures by guest experts from industry: an environment to have breakfast in or for preparing breakfast. The results are shown at right.
Team 1 (Amanda Alexander and Jeremy Chacich) proposed a modular assembly that rests on a bed to enclose individuals or couples while in bed. A lightweight frame with fabric shell fitted out with projector and sound system allows occupants to have “breakfast in bed” while enjoying a virtual environment of their choosing.
Team 2 (Jenn Corazzo, Luke Corson and Alex Leonard) designed a portable backpack that unfolds to create a picnic-like spread provided with several high-tech fabric panels, each with a different function. These include a cutting surface, a soft surface for setting out the picnic, and an integrated PV-fabric panel that collects solar energy that runs a low-level cooling panel to keep food fresh.
Team 3 (Andy Garcia, Elise Leone and Mallory Van Ness) designed an outdoor tensioned canopy with a sophisticated mix of photovoltaic fabric, light emitting fabric and cabling that attaches to the cornices between two buildings to create a mood-enhancing sidewalk dinning environment.
Team 4 (Michael Dodes, Sara Glenndenning and Shannon Kennedy) designed a transportable shade structure in a collapsible clamshell form. A lightweight metal base is staked into the ground, the fabric shell clipped to the base and extended up to create a shaded area for having breakfast.
Team 5 members Joel Hauck, Steph Leon and Ashley Williams also took to the picnic grounds creating a “Picnic Blanket” that contains its own cooler. Modular panels of fabric wrap a standard size cooler and when unfolded open out to create a large, family-sized picnic spread.
Team 6 members John Kretchmer, Becca Seeman and Kara Sweeney defined the challenge problem in terms of a portable table (as a hyperbolic paraboloid of rotation) that is held in tension by elastic strips of fabric. The table’s height and diameter is determined by how tightly the fabric is wrapped around the support rods.
Team 7 (Phil Derosa, Marissa Feddemma and Whitney Johnson) proposed a kit of parts that transforms any balcony of an upper level apartment into a breakfast nook. A tensioned fabric wall is attached to the balcony floor and pulled up like a rolling shade to affix to a telescoping vertical support that creates a sheltered, cove-like space.
Team 8 (Alisa Gillman, Louis Martin and Laura Schultz) designed an air-inflated breakfast structure with a helium-filled top that adjusts to varying degrees of openness. Anchored to the ground, the luminous structure inflates to create a cozy spherical space complete with inflatable table and bench seating built into the structure. To enter, lift the top, walk through the notched opening at one side, and slide into your seat. If there’s too much sun, crank down the floating top to enclose the space, or set it partially open to shade as needed.