When professionals at Green Bay furniture manufacturer KI teamed up with UWM architecture students, no one took a back seat. In fact, the spring KI-sponsored studio, or course, at the School of Architecture & Urban Planning (SARUP) turned out an edgy yet ergonomic specimen of public seating.
The prototype, a unique blade-and-foam structure is the culmination of a fruitful five-year partnership in which KI brought real-world challenges into the classroom to engage student creativity.
The prototype, called DRIFT, is on display through Oct. 30 at Discovery World, along with models and drawings from the collaborative design process.
“The partnership was established to bring together the A & D [architecture and design] community, academics and manufacturing, and to blend those so that we can actually potentially bring something to market – all the way from concept to commercialization,” says Amy Kiefer, vice president of education at KI. “Providing students with hands-on experience in studying the relationship between physical space and human-scaled objects, such as furniture, was tremendously rewarding.”
More than 70 students have participated during the run of the KI-sponsored studio, winning numerous awards. Resulting design work has included 25 objects, two full-scale prototypes, six future learning environments and 13 hypothetical residence halls.
“One of the goals of the school is to be relevant to its professional context, which involves not just architectural firms, but also manufacturing industries like KI,” says SARUP Dean Robert Greenstreet. “Our faculty and students have shared their energy and enthusiasm with the day-to-day expertise of the engineers at KI to come up with some really interesting ideas.”
In addition to facilitating an array of natural body positions, the DRIFT prototype is also integrates both lighting and electrical-power needs.
“The DRIFT project contemplates the nature of public space, the role of furniture within gathering spaces and how such space may be transformed to encourage new paradigms of use and value,” says Grace La, associate professor and director of the KI studio.
Watch as students construct their prototype in this time-lapse video about the making of DRIFT. View full size on Vimeo.