Mystie Thongs ’04 does not have a lot of free time as a full-time student in the College of Engineering. However, she was happy to oblige when Prof. Paul Eshelman and Prof. Gary Evans, design and environmental analysis, were looking for volunteers to evaluate their students’ final project.
Thongs’ opinion was valuable because she uses a wheelchair. Eshelman’s Design Studio and Evans’ Environment and Social Behavior classes collaborated to create a university student residence for students like Thongs.
“What’s unique about this collaboration is that it’s between two courses with different products and expectations,” said Eshelman.
This is the sixth year that Eshelman and Evans have had their classes work together on a project to solve a specific problem.
Yesterday the students presented a full-scale model of a residence suite that uses universal design, or the design of products and an environment to be usable by all people, including those with disabilities.
Four teams presented their parts of the collaborative design, which included an entry corridor, a lounge, a double bedroom, and a bathroom. Each team consisted of both Evans’ and Eshelman’s students.
In order to research the needs of all people, the students looked to experts in the community like Larry Roberts, program director of the Finger Lakes Independence Center (FLIC), an agency that advocates for those with disabilities.
Roberts and FLIC architectural barriers consultant John Ives compiled reading material for the students, arranged for them to visit disabled people in their homes, and gave the students feedback during the design process.
“I felt like it was really useful for us to be involved. Students asked really intelligent questions,” said Roberts. “I can tell our feedback made a real impact on the design choices,” he said.
The students also looked to the feedback of Thongs and others who came in and actually tried out the models for a post occupancy evaluation (POE) on Tuesday .
“The projects were absolutely amazing,” said Thongs. “I was ready to walk away with one of the desks [designed by the students],” she said.
The teams incorporated the comments from the POE and presented their design concepts to students and community members on Thursday, followed by a tour of life-size models of their designs.
Ideas that repeatedly came up during the presentation were accommodating but not emphasizing disability, allowing for the personalization of space, and avoiding an institutional quality of the environment and furnishings.
“I learned a lot about universal design. It’s difficult to accommodate everyone — it’s a good challenge,” said Rachelynn See ’03, a designer who worked on the bathroom.
Students of both classes had spent the last two weeks working in the studio to build the models. Campus Life sponsored their materials.
“It was amazing to see our own designs become a reality,” said Amanda Jutte ’03.
Evans commented that he and Eshelman were like orchestra conductors, bringing resources to the students and getting them organized, but letting them do the playing themselves.
“It takes on a life of it’s own. And it’s fun for us,” he said.
The project was also a real world experience for most students in the design and environmental analysis major, which incorporates interior design, facility management, and human factors.
“This is what design is all about — catering to people and society,” said Jutte.
Archived article by Emily Adelman