March 11, 2005
By Cassie Lynott
A project that began four years ago when world-renowned architect Eva Maddox approached Assistant Professor David Matthews of the Interior Architecture program in the School of Human and Consumer Sciences is now on display at the Art Institute of Chicago through April 3.
The final project, an exhibit titled, “Chicago Architecture: Ten Visions,” features the collaborative work of Ohio University students from the interior architecture program, part of the College of Health and Human Services, and visual communications program in the College of Communication.
A total of 50 students from Ohio University and Miami University of Ohio were engaged during the project to produce a design for futuristic classrooms and curriculums.
“Ten Visions” explores the ideas of 10 Chicago-based architects, each receiving a 21-foot by 21-foot space in the gallery. The exhibit is intended to be thought provoking, and offers models for affordable housing, education, immigration and regional planning in the future.
Matthews met Maddox, a 1992 Interior Design Hall of Fame inductee, at a speaking engagement in North Carolina, later assisting her with consulting work on the future of visual technology in Chicago. Matthews and his team of interior architecture students corresponded with designers at Maddox’s firm Perkins & Will | Eva Maddox Branded Environments on a weekly basis.
Assistant Professor of Visual Communication Sam Girton led a team of students in the graphic design aspect of the project.
“Eva likes to give back to the community,” Girton says. “This is her way of getting students involved.”
Professor Eugene Geist from the Human and Consumer Sciences department specializes in early childhood education. “If you’re going to design a space, you need to know how to teach in the space,” Geist says. Geist’s main role was to assist in the development of curriculum and how that would relate in future environments.
“The idea was that school curriculum should shape the way schools look in the future,” Matthews says. The students worked to establish a new curriculum structure for students K-6 using multiple intelligences, constructivism, and project-based approaches.
“We had really never worked on a group project until this,” recalls Josh Woodburn, a graduate student in the interior architecture program. “It was a great experience being able to work with other professionals in the field.”
The teams communicated weekly with the designers from Perkins & Will | Eva Maddox Branded Environments through the internet, teleconferences and trips to Chicago.
“The people at Perkins & Will have given literally thousands of dollars worth of their time a week toward this project,” Matthews says.
Woodburn says the experience of presenting his ideas to Chicago’s professional team of architects was “kind of a nerve-racking. But they’re there to critique you, and they treated us well.”
Woodburn’s creative team worked on “the wave” model during in the fall of 2003. The group met with East Elementary School students to study their learning behaviors, focusing on the Reggio Emilia approach on education. The team met with psychologist Howard Gardner, famous for his work with multiple intelligences and a pioneer in U.S. educational systems.
“In the final model, kids were able to interact and see what was going on in different classrooms,” Woodburn says. “It has a very versatile feel.”
Senior Erik Salo says his team of three focused its “optimal classroom” design on new age teaching methods and how they applied to different types of intelligences. The final design concept incorporates abstract thinking with new-age technology.
“I’ve never worked on anything quite as hard,” Salo says. “We were here from 60 to 80 hours a week on top of a full load of classes. This was the first time any of us had ever done a large scale project.”
Salo recently saw the final exhibit for the first time. “It was amazing,” he said. “You walk through the galleries of works by Vincent Van Gogh and there in the middle of it are giant images of what we did.”
Cassie Lynott is a student writer for University Communications and Marketing. Sarah Kennedy contributed to this article.