This May, the Research+Design team at Ziger/Snead, along with faculty member Leah Brown, has been hard at work with about 20 middle school students from the Baltimore Design School collaborating on the inaugural Workpoint project, a hands-on learning opportunity to create an art installation.
For this year’s project, the students were asked to consider the relationship between the “part” and the “whole” in a participatory design and assembly process to create a complex sculpture of repetitive elements. The Research+Design team selected beautiful striped paper straws from Kikkerland Design as a material for three-dimensional design exploration. The straws come in three different colors (red, blue, and gray), are printed with soy-based ink, and are both biodegradable and compostable.
Through three different work sessions, students were asked to reimagine the straws as a modular building component of three different sizes – full-length (7-3/4”), one-third length (2-9/16”), and two-third length (5-1/8”). The three sizes and colors allowed for interesting variations in spatial and visual configurations. Red and white striped baker’s twine was used to join the straws together.
During the first session, individual straws of the same color were joined together to make two-dimensional polygons that were then expanded into three-dimensional polyhedrons to create a module. Students continued to produce more of these modules during the second session and then join them together into a larger component. In the third and final session, students found peers with components of the two other colors besides their own and joined them together into an even larger component. Along the way, the Research+Design team showed the students inspirational precedent images from the disciplines of art, architecture, graphic design, and fashion that display design concepts like aggregation, modularity, repetition, triangulation, and assembly logics.
During the last session, the students were excited to see the larger multi-colored components come together into a complex megastructure measuring over ten feet long. Next week, the Z/S team will install the piece in the school’s lobby for the students to enjoy during their last month of classes in the Winston School. Once the new building opens, the Research+Design team will transport and reinstall the piece in the Baltimore Design School’s new home, helping these students begin to claim ownership of their new space.