American Disabilities Act

In my last post, I mentioned the American with Disabilities Act, also known as ADA. This act was signed in 1991 by George H.W. Bush. This act prohibits people with disabilities to be discriminated against. In 2008, George W. Bush signed the ADA Amendments Act, which broadened the protections for disabled workers. This act refers to employment, public accommodations/commercial facilities, public entities/transportation and telecommunications. While each part of this act is important, the part that applies the most to me is the public accommodations/commercial facilities (Title III). It states that individuals with disabilities  should have equal enjoyment of the goods, services, facilities, or accommodations. This includes things like lodging, recreation, transportation, education, dining, shopping, places of public display, etc. Any new construction as of July 1992 has to comply with the latest ADA codes. Even some existing entities must comply to new codes, a recent one being that owners and operators  of public swimming pool must comply to the ADA Revised Requirements: Accessible Pools – Means of Entry and Exit by January 2013. ADA codes are very specific, for example, here is a diagram for a wheelchair accessible sink. This shows how the wheelchair interacts with the sink and the dimensions of the sink and where it should be placed in order to satisfy the needs of the wheelchair user. ADA is a very important part of interior design since all buildings must fully comply to these codes. Here is the link to the ADA home page if you want to know more.

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Interior Design Mentorship

My junior and senior years of high school I had the opportunity to mentor under interior designers at an AECOM office in Roanoke, Virginia. While I was in the same environment both years, I was able to take away different things and learn a lot. Junior year, another student who was doing an architecture mentorship and I collaborated on a project. He designed a vacation home for a family on Saranac Lake in New York, and I did the interiors. This is where I found out how design really is a process. The amount of information I had to keep in mind was overwhelming, and so was the amount of trace paper I used. I had to make a reasonable and effective floor plan, while keeping all of the needs of the family in mind and meeting all of the ADA (American Disabilities Act) codes. Once my mentor, Alina Soroka (a Tech alum), and the other student’s mentor approved my floor plan, I had to move on to rendering. Alina introduced me to AECOM’s huge library of samples, and I didn’t even know where to begin. I wanted them home to feel spacious, but still have all the cozy aspects that a home should have. Once I settled on samples, I began rendering my floor plans. All of this was by hand, so getting this right was a long process. Eventually, I was ready to put together my sample board and a presentation. 2 other students and I came in one day and presented to the entire floor of designers. They began throwing critiques at me as I just stood there and soaked it up. For my first experience in any sort of interior design, I knew I had done my best so I just took notes to remember for later. The next year was quite different. I was assigned a practice NCIDQ (National Council for Interior Design Qualification) exam and was supposed to complete it in depth. The prompt for the exam included creating a space for an art school, with a pottery studio and book store on the bottom level and dormitories for handicapped students on the top level. I was provided the outline of the building, along with minimum dimensions for each space (offices, dormitories, bathrooms, etc), and some specific furniture that belonged in each space. For this project, it was especially important that everything was up to ADA code. I did this project by hand as well, and the complicated two levels were very tricky for me. Eventually, I completed a floor plan that met all of the requirements. Afterwards, I had to research all of the ADA codes that applied to my plan. I also did a basic rendering of the plan and had some samples of materials. I really learned a lot from these two years, mainly about how design really takes time, and a lot of critique. Seeing the interaction between interior designers and the others (architects, engineers, etc), was also really interesting because of all the collaborating they have to do.

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Adventures in Floyd

This weekend, I had the chance to help out at the Floyd County Arts and Crafts Festival. While I had no idea what to expect before getting there, I ended up having a great time. I got to work in the Children’s Activities area, located in a pottery studio. Resources were provided to make Christmas cards and “Silver Bell” ornaments. It was so much fun to see the creative things the kids could come up with, especially when the Christmas themed stickers began to run low. It was awesome to be a part of kid’s being creative and even getting to share ideas with them was fun. It was a great way to spend a Saturday.

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Research Paper Page-Zaha Hadid

My research paper is about a female architect named Zaha Hadid. She designed the aquatic center for the 2012 summer Olympics in London as well as many other major buildings around the world. She begins her designs with several paintings to explore forms and shapes, and incorporating the landscape around her site is vital to her designs. You can read more about her here. Smilie: :-)

2012 summer Olympics aquatics center

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Library Hunting

I know we did this activity a few weeks ago, but here is my first experience with the Art+Architecture Library. I partnered with Rebecca, who had the subject of “photography.” There are many, many, many books on photography in the library, and originally she had a list of several different categories such as photographs, how to photographs, and the history of photography. She narrowed it down to one book, “What Photography Is,” by James Elkins with the call number of TR 642 e43 2011 and I was easily above to find it amongst the abundance of books. When I went in to find books for my research topic, Zaha Hadid, I started with the computer. First I searched just books and wrote down the section that she was found in, NA 1469 H33A4. There were several books with articles about her life and her works. I went back to the computer and narrowed my search to just articles and found she had been written about in ArtForum magazine a few times. The issues were in the bound periodicals section, so I found my way to that section of the library easily, made copies of the articles (because you can’t check out periodicals), and it was easy as pie. Thankfully, the library system is very easy to use and I was able to find my information quickly and efficiently.

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Cube Revisions

As the result of choose a completely unfamiliar material, I encountered a big struggle with my 6″ cube. I chose sheets of plastic mesh used for embroidery because I was drawn to the translucency and weave-able qualities, but I found out along the way that the material was very difficult to work with due to its extreme flexibility. I encountered issues with adhesive, structure, and just overall design as I changed my model several times as I learned more about the material. The last cube I made came down 4 thick walls for structure, with strips of black material going across in effort to make another cube in between. In this design, the translucency was lost and the rods going through the middle were not strong enough to stay straight. I am going back to square one with this material, hoping to find an adhesive clean enough for quality craftsmanship, and strong enough to keep the cube structure and standing.

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Methods of Display

The three pictures above are all methods of display, but what’s the difference between them? The first picture on the left features a display with 3 sides, a bottom, and a top complete with lighting. The middle picture lays out different fabrics and color schemes in a tray, and the third tray is a poster, very similar to the type we were assigned to do in class. All of these pictures were taken from Gensler, an international architectural giant, so we can probably assume these are all practical, professional display types. The clue to the difference between these is what part of the process of design they are useful for. The third picture is mainly for brainstorming and inspiration. This particular poster was designed for Nashville, Tennessee, highlighting the aspects they wanted to characterize in their design. The words featured are “energy,” “inherently local,” “industrious,” and “genuine.” They took photographs of aspects of Nashville that they thought captured these words the best, then made a display to keep them on track throughout the process. The first picture is more in depth than the middle one, but in my opinion, they could both be the next step on the process. The first picture could provide a good first look at the overall design, and the second picture can provide a picture of the fabrics and surfaces together. The first picture does give a more complete picture of the overall design to the viewer. The most important thing about display is that the viewer can clearly see and can easily understand what is being presented.

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What happens in D.C….

…doesn’t stay in D.C.! Because I’m going to attempt to share everything I experienced and tried to soak in during the first year interiors whirlwind of a trip. Our first stop was a place called Fox Architects. According to their website, “the FOX Interiors Studio continues to be ranked as one of the largest design firms in the region, a testament to our solid reputation, regional expertise and ability to provide compelling office design solutions in one of the nation’s most competitive markets. Our award-winning portfolio highlights our expertise in various market sectors, including corporate commercial, technology, energy, government and government/contractor, academic, legal, association and mixed-use at the local and national levels.” We were greeted with a sandwich lunch and a presentation of their portfolio, then a brief tour of their work space. Our next stop was only a few floors up at Steelcase, which was celebrating its 100th anniversary in office furniture design. I personally found Steelcase to be by far the most interesting office to tour because you could truly see the innovation they were creating. It was exciting, thoughtful, and interesting as each element about a product was described with a full purpose. The table posted below, for example, was not the exact model we were shown but is similar.


Notice how the front table legs are bent at an extreme angle. Any guesses why? COLLABORATION. I heard this word so many times on the trip, because it’s such a big deal! With this design, people can easily pull their chairs over to another person’s workspace without the legs getting in the way of them sitting side by side. And notice the tray hanging from the back? That’s for wire concealment, to keep the workspace open and uncluttered. These types of designs are becoming more and more popular with the trend of healthy, open workspaces. This one design was just so amazing to me, that one table could make such a huge difference in someone’s day. A huge thing I learned on this trip was that what we do as designers really matters, which I’ll save for another blog Smilie: :-).

We squeezed in a mini visit to Design Tex, a full surface solution company as well.

That evening, Steelcase hosted a reception with VT Design alums and we got to chat with them about everything from their studio experiences, to internships, to their jobs. It was so much information but it was so helpful!

The next day, we toured the Marriott Corporate Headquarters, where we got to learn about the process hotels go through when designing. It was mentioned that if you like your designs to last, then the hotel business is not right for you, considering designs are changed about every 3-4 years.

We finished up the trip at Gensler, the international architectural giant. Like Fox, they also presented their portfolio but the tour was much more interesting. They had pin-ups of their projects in a hallway we got to walk through as a designer explained the projects in more detail. This is just an overview of what we did, I’d like to spend more time talking about what I learned in other blogs!

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Despite coming in as an interior design major, I’ve become more and more interested in industrial design ever since I got to Virginia Tech. I just want to share this desire as it develops and see where it goes. I’d really love to design products that people in third world countries can use, but I can’t say I know just what that looks likes. Anyways, I just wanted to share that as it’s kind of a seed of an idea right now and maybe ya’ll can watch it grow with me.

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Constructive Criticism…

Criticism. It can be hard to listen to sometimes! I think the best way to deal with criticism is to not attach yourself to the exact way something is. The photography posters, for example, were a huge source of criticism this week. Everyone had something they needed to revise or work on, but mostly everyone had been previously satisfied with their work. I know I was at least, so opening myself up to all these changes I should make was difficult at first. I think the best way to deal with criticism is to separate yourself from your piece, as Ed Dorsa said in his presentation of industrial design, your work is not for you. As designers we have to learn what other people see in our work and the best way to do that is through criticism. It’s said over and over again that “it’s not personal.” I’m just really learning how to listen, react, and discern the criticism that I hear because I think all of those are a vital tools for every designer to have.

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