Virtual Design Festival

Interior designs from Pratt graduates foreground diversity and inclusion

Pratt Institute interior design graduates focus on ethical and social responsibility

An elevator that facilitates awkwardness and an urban-farming capsule hotel are among the projects presented in this Virtual Design Festival school show by interior design graduates from New York's Pratt Institute.

The final thesis works were created by a mixture of students from the Bachelors and Masters courses in interior design from Pratt's School of Design.

Both programmes focus not just on practical skills but also on forging a design practice with a social, ethical and environmental conscience.

Bachelor and Master of Fine Arts in Interior Design, Pratt Institute

University: Pratt Institute Brooklyn, School of Design
Course: BFA and MFA Interior Design

Course statement:

"The Bachelor and Master of Fine Arts in Interior Design at Pratt Institute have consistently ranked as the top interior design programmes in the United States. The programmes prepare students to engage in critical inquiry and exploration, skills that establish them as innovators able to impact the profession as well as research on the interior environment.

"The programmes are architecturally oriented, with emphasis on spatial articulation. They are designed to guide students in generating creative solutions through an understanding of craft and making, light, colour, and material research.

"Through both theoretical and applied research, the curriculum addresses emerging technologies, interdisciplinary collaboration and sustainable practices. Both degrees focus on larger issues of ethical and social responsibility, diversity and inclusion through an understanding of global cultural history and its context.

"The BFA and the MFA culminate in a thesis project developed in the final year of study, providing students with the opportunity and freedom to pursue a topic in depth."

Interior designs from Pratt graduates foreground diversity and inclusion

Cultural Switcher by Manlin Zhang, MFA

"Cultural Switcher is a model community for immigrants that creates a new housing paradigm for their successful transition into a non-native cultural context by manipulating visual boundaries, materiality and spatial sequence within fixed interior conditions.

"Specifically, this project proposes the creation of a new housing typology for Chinese immigrants who cannot participate in the current culture due to language barriers and foreign social customs. It questions and reinvents the relationship between public and private realms based on the five cultural models presented by psychologist Teresa La Fromboise.

"The ultimate goal is to create an environment that promotes the integration of Chinese immigrants amongst themselves and with other groups in society while creating a collective memory together and thereby stimulating a sense of identity."

Thesis Advisor: Visiting assistant professor Edwin Zawadski
Email: [email protected]

Interior designs from Pratt graduates foreground diversity and inclusion

Symbiosis by Tak Ying Chan, BFA

"Symbiosis is a capsule hotel apartment set in the Soho area of New York that introduces visitors and occupants to urban farming and educates them about the concept.

"The project explores how consumerism in cities has almost always relied on a onesided exploitation of the environment and how this can be replaced with a different system in which we live and work in symbiosis with nature, creating a mutual relationship between us and the environment."

Thesis Advisor: Adjunct associate professor Melissa Cicetti
Email: [email protected]

Interior designs from Pratt graduates foreground diversity and inclusion

Shaping the Time by Chunlun Sun, MFA

"The nature of sunlight entails daily and seasonal movement as well as the action of sunlight on materials in the sequence of time. The intention of this proposal is to visualize and shape people’s physical and spiritual perception of time by using sunlight as a medium to help people understand its preciousness.

"In this case, a mundane building has been transformed using a series of movie-like scenarios to create special conditions that allow visitors to explore qualities of space, atmosphere, emotion, rhythm, brightness and darkness."

Thesis Advisor: Visiting assistant professor Woody Rainey
Email: [email protected]

Interior designs from Pratt graduates foreground diversity and inclusion

Jingjing Huang, BFA

"This thesis explores the unconscious time acceleration caused by imagery-driven media. It investigates how time awareness can be created through observation and the expression of different speeds based on the movement of imagery, body, and sound.

"The interior provides both physical and virtual environments to observe. In the physical space, the interior acts as a datum for occupants to articulate and observe two scales of time: media time as defined by cutting frequency and body time as defined by movements. In the virtual reality space, occupants experience an inversion of this influence.

"Through this experience, occupants are directed through a journey of muting, exposing and submerging in the sequence of interior, exterior and virtual dimensions. They are exploring and experiencing the phenomenon of merging and activation caused by human coexistence with media."

Thesis Advisor: Adjunct associate professor Sheryl Kasak
Email: [email protected]

Interior designs from Pratt graduates foreground diversity and inclusion

For the Sake of Subversion by Zev Schwartz, MFA

"For the Sake of Subversion interrogates the normative goals and practices of interior design through the design of a monument to the AIDS crisis in America.

"Inserting a typically exterior object, a monument, into the built interior begins a conversation on the boundaries of the interior and exterior. This blurring of boundaries is reinforced by removing the building’s glazing and roof to expose it to the elements.

"A stereotypical element of monument design, the fountain, is inverted. An atrium is cut through the entire building to make space for an 'anti-fountain'. Only fed by the rain, its emptiness echoes the absence of those lost to the AIDS epidemic."

Thesis Advisor: Associate professor Annie Coggan-Crawford
Email: [email protected]

Interior designs from Pratt graduates foreground diversity and inclusion

(The Awkward) Elevator Rehearsal by Yiru Wu, BFA

"This project is a reproduction and amplification of awkward moments in a daily setting that aims to explore the productivity of awkwardness. Set in the central atrium of the Beekman Hotel, the installation consists of a hotel suite that constantly reconfigures itself, with the four auxiliary rooms riding up and down in different elevator cabs.

"Awkwardness occurs when residents come into contact with random passengers of each elevator. Through these instances, the luxury suite becomes a laboratory that explores social ethology and opens up a possibility for a more performative and interactive architecture."

Thesis Advisor: Adjunct associate professor Alex Schweder
[email protected]

The Space of Water by Bernita Ling, MFA

"Physical bodies and physical space share a universal element: water. Our physical bodies are composed of 60 per cent water while buildings hold complex plumbing systems. Within both of these structures, the complex water systems are hidden.

"How can we resurface and reimagine this hidden material to connect our physical bodies with the physical spaces they occupy? This thesis tests how water can be used as both a building material to shape our built environment and a pedagogical tool to reshape our narrative of its use."

Thesis Advisor: Adjunct assistant professor Irina Schneid
[email protected]

Ting Chu King, MFA

"This thesis introduces a new agricultural environment to an existing urban educational facility located in a New York food desert. The integration of the two programmes is to expose the students and neighbourhood residents to a diverse diet and promote healthy eating habits.

"It proposes the insertion of a secondary farming programme within an existing, underused urban space and blurs the boundary between the two, in order to create a didactic, symbiotic relationship. Therefore, an environment of curiosity and learning can emerge in this designed space."

Thesis Advisor: Visiting assistant professor Claudia Hernandez
Email: [email protected]

Getting Home by Valen (Ningxin) Zhang, BFA

“Getting Home aims to showcase the relationship between local senior residents and tourists as part of the 'Disneyfication' occurring in many ancient, historic towns.

"It attempts to counter the demolition of a land’s identity by instead creating a cultural landscape that carries both nostalgia and exoticism, producing novelty for young and old tourists alike and a welcoming respite for the elders living among them.

"My programme is a response to the mix of old people’s homes and hotels located in Lili ancient town in China. My purpose is not only to help local seniors retrieve the attachment to their homeland but also to help tourists understand the historic and cultural value embedded in this town."

Thesis Advisor: Visiting associate professor Brendan Moran
Email: [email protected]

Space of Translation/Elements of Narrative by Chenchen Kang, MFA

"This thesis tests the translational relationship between literature and architecture. The hope is that, by translating the language of text into the language of design, one might reveal new aspects that were unseen in the other.

"The narrative of Dante’s Divine Comedy becomes the ethereal backdrop for the spatial narrative within a cemetery and an abandoned power plant. The three paths dedicated to the mourners, the deceased and the contemplators intertwine with one another to create a space that resides between the boundaries of life and death, self and other, body and spirit."

Thesis Advisor: Adjunct associate professor Francine Monaco
Email: [email protected]

Shenyi Zhang, BFA

"How can water be used to promote a sense of equality in spaces? Water is both a healing and destructive foundation of life and symbolizes power, freedom, and tranquillity.

"This project explores equality, segregation and healing as embodied by the swimming pool throughout American history and proposes a swimming pool centre for use by NYC schools. Water is used to bring people together and heal the distance created through history.

"Users will enter a series of different water spaces that promote interaction and embark on a journey of learning. Waterfalls and water slides connect both users and water together in the space to promote a sense of gathering."

Thesis Advisor: Visiting assistant professor John Nafziger
[email protected]

The New Theatre with Living Laboratory by Terry (Junghyun) Hong, MFA

"This project for housing insecure college students is a spatial template for co-existence that introduces veiled, mutualistic habitable volumes into a theatre.

This thesis is an experiment in implanting heterogeneous rooms into stable, existing interior space. The host volume is the Theatre for a New Audience – a modern theatre for performances based on classical Shakespeare plays.

The thesis expands the theatre's social utility as an art centre and deepens the cooperation with neighbouring universities through the dual use of its performative living stage for diverse civil educational programs. The Veil of Ignorance is a theoretical framework for an internal system of equality, morality, and humanity.

Thesis Advisor: Visiting associate professor Nina Freedman
Email: [email protected] 

Yijun Zhou, BFA

"How could social online shopping educate us about virtual living? Composing my thesis as a satire, I reimagined Kith as a multi-user, online virtual store within the digitally reproduced Scholastic Building in Soho.

"The project proposes a comprehensive shopping system while presenting and examining the interiors of e-commerce retailers. In order to educate users about how shopping reinforces social differentiation, I introduced a membership system to enhance their experience.

"Membership levels are reflected through vertical, structural differences and virtual view-controlling materials, which also implies an aspect of surveillance as a by-product of online social activity."

Thesis Advisor: Associate professor Karin Tehve
Email: [email protected]

NOHO Memory Archive (NMA) by Fangtu Gong, MFA

"Considering the relative, simultaneous time dimensions of past, present and future, the NOHO Memory Archive is an investigation into making memory tangible in spatial form.

"As an archive research and performance space for the performing arts in Lower Manhattan, it presents memory as a way to commemorate past historical and avant-garde performances, which can be accessed through books, tapes and videos, while also inviting the public to witness the process behind current works.

"The bottom three floors of the original cast-iron facade with its columned, loft-style structure is reimagined with an inserted staircase, as well as pyramid and bridge shapes that utilize a combination of reflective and patterned tactile surfaces to evoke a memory-making atmosphere."

Thesis Advisor: Professor Alison Snyder
Email: [email protected]

Clockwise from top left: Ziyi Cui, MFA; Vanwalee Chansue, BFA; Erin Loffler, MFA; Aislinn Jefferies, MFA; Christine (Chai Yeon) Park, BFA

A complete presentation of work from the MFA and BFA interior design class of 2020, as well as from the wider School of Design can be found on the Pratt Show website.

Additional portfolios can be found on Issuu.

Virtual Design Festival's student and schools initiative offers a simple and affordable platform for student and graduate groups to present their work during the coronavirus pandemic. Click here for more details.