The final review for the summer design studio I’ve been writing about took place a few Wednesdays ago, at the Museum of Contemporary Craft in Portland. The review event itself was enjoyable and engaging. The event was attended by jury members from a wide cross-section of the Portland (and Oregon) design and art community, including academics, architects and landscape architects, fine artists and engineers, among other creative professionals. The wide variety of observations and criticism facilitated by this diversity was fantastic, and reminded me how important events like this are in the maintenance and growth of the elusive “design community.”
More on that in a minute, but first let me sum up the last few weeks of the quarter: “sawdust.” Having sorted through lessons learned from the design exercises of the first five of the eight weeks, the students selected, developed and built a single design as a group. Most students come into this studio with no previous fabrication experience; one of the most important functions of the course is to give future designers hands-on experience manipulating and assembling real materials. There was a lot of time spent learning how to shape wood and metal while keeping digits intact (we had a 100% success rate on this point), learning to use CAD / CAM software and hardware that is new or unfamiliar, learning about chemical properties of finishes, etc. In the end, the students completed a finished piece of furniture, and presented it for review.
The jury on Wednesday had a lot to say about the piece. We heard commentary and observations on compositional, structural, and theoretical grounds, as well as on issues of design methodology- in other words, all of the things that matter!
In addition to the great educational opportunity this afforded the students, there was also a benefit for the attendees. In this age of specialization, we have precious few settings in which designers and artists from a variety of backgrounds get to engage directly. It’s easy to become discipline-myopic when functioning inside our respective professions, but the reality is that observations and methodologies from other kinds of practice can inform what we ourselves do. Seeing the exchanges that took place on Wednesday, I’m reminded that design communities, whether they are local, national or international, should continue to seek professional diversity.
As a final note, I wanted to add a heartfelt thanks: Second Story, the School of Architecture and Allied Arts, myself and my students all appreciate the opportunity to host this event afforded by the Museum of Contemporary Craft (MoCC).