Urban Nature: A Recycled Sanctuary

Urban Nature: A Recycled Sanctuary

Purdue University

610 Purdue Mall
West Lafayette, IN 47907

S. Zahner and L. Drake

Team Members
G. Bennet
M. Herring
K. Hampton
D. Marchese, Shop Support

Urban Nature: A Recycled Sanctuary

CONNECT 2016 - Purdue CONNECT 2016 - Purdue
(3367 KB),  23-Oct-2016 09:42 PM

Initial Proposal: ‘The theme of our space is Natural Urban Environment. Using Bauhaus principles of quotidian materials, and found materials, we will create a space that reflects financial economy and creativity, with references to natural iconography such as leaves and insects. When first discussing how we would proceed and what materials to use, we decided that there is enough waste material in our art and design building at Purdue that has been left over from projects made in classes in the areas of industrial design, sculpture, ceramics and textiles. We decided to utilize these and allow the materials to drive our creativity. We took pictures of the materials in question as the starting point for our brainstorming sessions, which include wood, cardboard, sheet metal, copper wire, coffee sacks, plastic, discarded veneer.’

Two weeks in: SOFA is providing us with the opportunity to create novel design while working collaboratively and learning new skills. Our design consists primarily of using discarded (not necessarily old) materials and fabricating them into new objects to create an almost wholly reused environment. We will be gathering materials in the Purdue Art and Design building that have been discarded, some of which we took directly out of the dumpster outside one of the studios, and giving them a new beginning in ways for which they were not originally intended. We want to show that just because something is perceived as trash doesn't mean that it can't be redesigned into something useable. We have also found that some of the discarded materials are unused, a fact which we hope also addresses the over-consumption of nature-based materials and the effort and time it takes to grow and harvest them.

Our floor design is based on the dead insects that one of our team finds and draws in her studio space. We felt that this addressed the discarding of the corporeal body as well as the damaging effect the human race has on nature. From this starting point we have pooled our various skills, drawing, printmaking, weaving, furniture design and fabrication and paired them with the discarded materials we have found around the Visual and Performing Arts building.

One of the best outcomes of this process so far has being learning to work with each other and discover each other’s skills and strengths, and learning to have a voice in the design process. This coupled with the actual making of the work, troubleshooting the physical requirements of such a large blank space is pushing us into a higher level of ability and appreciation of what it means to be a designer.

While we are using discarded materials and traditional methods of construction, such as mold-making, screen-printing, weaving, welding, we are also using the plotter, 3D printer and laser-cutter for various areas of the projects. Our intention is to let the materials speak for themselves, based on a modernist Bauhausian principle of the intrinsic qualities they possess. Texture, line, silhouette and color are very important to our overall design.

Our team comprises three student members and two faculty advisors. Each student member was chosen for the exceptional skills they possess in their area of study, Industrial Design, Fine Arts, and Art Education. Whereas this might seem like an unusual combination for a design competition, each member has proven to be capable in more than just their own area throughout their careers at Purdue, has a track record of working very well both with others and independently, and being able to take the lead. 

At this point we have our floor design and are fabricating the floor covering and starting to realize the furniture designs. We have also begun the fabrication of one of the walls which will be made out of the models from hundreds of old plaster molds we found in the ceramics studio. 

One thing we already have learned: flexibility and adaptability are key. 


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