Dezeen Magazine

Public eatery with overhead curved timber framing by Izze Stadulis at Virginia Commonwealth University

Virginia Commonwealth University spotlights 12 interior design projects

Dezeen School Shows: a community centre informed by patchwork construction and a rehabilitation space with curved, organic forms are included in Dezeen's latest school show by students at Virginia Commonwealth University.

Also included is a library that encourages social interaction and halls of residence designed to make students feel at home.

Virginia Commonwealth University

School: Department of Interior Design
Course: Thesis studio
Tutors: Roberto Ventura, Kristin Carleton and Emily Smith

School statement:

"This studio is the culmination of year-long independent design exploration. Students completing their final year in the Department of Interior Design at Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) are challenged to explore how design can engage an issue or idea that has three tiers of relevance.

"First, the project must have relevance to the student in order to sustain the passion required for a year-long investigation. Second, the project must engage with an issue or need in the local community in which the project is based.

"The vast majority of projects are situated in or near Richmond, Virginia, where the university is located. Third, the project should invite interest from the larger interior design community.

"Students develop research that includes primary works of their own authorship, programming and site documentation in the fall semester. This backbone sets the foundation for the development of a design response to the student inquiries in the spring.

"Ultimately, these projects demonstrate the values driving the pursuits of these students and the power and potential they have as emerging designers to transform not only interior space but our communities overall."

Hand drawing of interior project City Co-op by Madison C Donnelly at Virginia Commonwealth University

City Co-op by Madison C Donnelly

"City Co-op was designed to take over an existing brick building located at 101 S Linden St in Richmond Virginia, which had been left unchanged after 130 years. The design idea was to bring the space back to its original use as a public market, which sparked the idea that the space is a boomerang.

"The design of the first floor is inspired by the building's column grid. Built off of the vertical columns is a scaffolding system that is home to module walls, light fixtures, conduit and signage.

"Between any two vertical elements, walls can be hung that allow vendor booths to be customisable. As the design currently stands, the space holds 33 different vendors, such as produce, delis, coffee, bakeries, florists, sandwich shops and more.

"With every design, I attempt to blur the line between fine art and interior design. Throughout my education, I have pushed the role of interior design in the graphic world through expressive technical drawings and sketches.

"Exploring the roles of sustainability, form and cohesive systems has defined my design education."

Student: Madison C Donnelly
Course: IDES 401: Senior Interior Design Studio II
Tutor: Emily Smith
Email: madison1231m[at]

Interior render of a residential flat clad in timber battons

Taking Flight: An Independent Living Facility for Emancipated Foster Youth by Kristy McDaniel Leitzel

"The project envisions foster care centres as 'nests'.

"Here, each 'nest' has a personality and is made from unique accumulations of varied materials. They are chaotic but maintain predictability. Nests are built to support the young.

"But nests are temporary and designed for nurture. They provide a hideaway from full exposure to life's risks and rewards.

"Nests must be a facilitator for growth until it is time to take flight."

Student: Kristy McDaniel Leitzel
Course: IDES 699: Creative Project – Thesis
Tutor: Roberto Ventura

Two colourful interior sections of Activate RVA by Miriam Gibson

Activate RVA by Miriam Gibson

"Activate RVA in Richmond, Virginia, is a community and social-activation centre that embodies the construction of patchwork, taking scraps of different shapes, sizes, colours and patterns and stitching them together to create something new, unique and needed.

"Activate RVA will provide spaces that can host an array of different events, from large programs like guest lectures, community gardening workshops, clothing swaps and fundraisers to smaller, more personal interactions such as mentorship sessions, small group discussions, grass-roots organisation meetings and specialised classes.

"Additionally, collaborative lounge areas provide space where community members can work and meet other members who have a shared interest in social activism.

"I believe that design follows value as form follows function. I value joy and engagement, so I design spaces that would make users genuinely excited to be in them, using bright colours, vivid murals and patterns and ceiling elements that bring us out of the ordinary boxes we are used to existing in."

Student: Miriam Gibson
Course: IDES 401: Senior Interior Design Studio II
Tutor: Emily Smith

Interior render of a brick communal space with tables and chairs

Humans Alike by Yasmine Ali

"Humans Alike is a space that seeks to connect immigrants from different backgrounds and cultures, highlighting the significance of humanitarian solidarity and discouraging the constructed perception of immigrants and refugees.

"Through the exploration of the idea of multicultural design, this project is a reminder that despite our differences and unique backgrounds, we are all alike.  We are all human.

"As a designer, I recognise the responsibility I have that can tremendously impact society and the environment around it. Because of this, I strive to apply my skills and knowledge in designs that advocate the power of sustainability and social equity.

"As Victor Papanek said, "Design can and must become a way in which young people can participate in changing society".

Student: Yasmine Ali
Course: IDES 401: Senior Interior Design Studio II
Tutor: Kristin Carleton

Perspective section of a gabled building by by Stephanie Wilburn at Virginia Commonwealth University

Connections Exposed – A Library for the People by Stephanie Wilburn

"Branch libraries are increasingly tasked with supporting their communities in ways outside of historical norms.

"This library is designed to act as a community centre that encourages connection and social interaction while also meeting the community's social infrastructure and knowledge hub needs."

Student: Stephanie Wilburn
Course: IDES 699: Creative Project – Thesis
Tutor: Roberto Ventura
Email: slwilburn1[at]

Interior render and annotative design elements to the side

Nurture by Sophie Kozlowski

"Nurture reimagines rehabilitative spaces through the concept of embrace. Curved forms, organic patterns and vertical layering are three of the primary design elements used to create this interior environment, which is focused on eating disorder recovery.

"Conveniently located near the student campus, Nurture makes recovery easily accessible to VCU students.

"Design informs people's experiences and lives. Through my thesis research, I have discovered that every little detail holds weight, whether it's colour, materiality, or scale. These components together can lead to positive or negative experiences within built environments.

"There is a lot of power in these decisions and as designers, I believe we should take that responsibility seriously."

Student: Sophie Kozlowski
Course: IDES 401: Senior Interior Design Studio II
Tutor: Emily Smith
Email: sophiefkozlowski[at]

Public eatery with overhead curved timber framing by Izze Stadulis at Virginia Commonwealth University

Corner Kitchen by Izze Stadulis

"Thoughtful design should be available to all people. I wanted to design primarily for the homeless community in Richmond, Virginia, for people who may not feel welcomed into every shop or restaurant they pass.

"This project will be a community kitchen, teaching kitchen and donation centre, independent from any other building seen as a safe place.

"Design has such a huge role within our everyday lives. It affects our mood, mental health and our everyday flow. I believe thoughtful and equal design should be available and speak to all people."

Student: Izze Stadulis
Course: IDES 401: Senior Interior Design Studio II
Tutor: Kristin Carleton

Reception area with curved timber walls and roof by Brock Hubbard at Virginia Commonwealth University

Mindfulness Meditation by Brock Hubbard

"The project explores how a structure might heal users while simultaneously removing them from society and reconnecting them with their inner selves as a novel strategy to combat mental illness.

"Since the emergence of the smartphones and social media in 2007 depression rates have risen dramatically, with the greatest impact on my generation and the next. People exercise and meditate less, despite its ability to reduce stress and sadness.

"In the Richmond area, there is currently no facility dedicated to mental training. Although the concept of training our brains to change our thinking is relatively new, it has proven to be effective. Meditation and yoga in both hot and cold environments could be used to achieve this.

"The brain is similar to a muscle in that the more you use it, the stronger it becomes. I believe that design can create a welcoming and comfortable environment for all. It's critical to consider the building's mission in healing the individual, shifting how they think and changing their mindset."

Student: Brock Hubbard
Course: IDES 401: Senior Interior Design Studio II
Tutor: Kristin Carleton

Interior render with two black and white section drawings

Connected: Exploring Automation to Activate Ageing in Place Success by Hallie Walker Gillespie

"Birds are visible signs of invisible forces. The design of this project references the unique characteristics of a peacock's inherent aesthetic beauty, optimised feather structure and golden ratio proportions.

"A 'Smart Inn' of managed AirBnB apartments was designed for short and long-term rentals, with live-in showrooms for smart home devices to alleviate the hesitation of adopting smart technologies.

"Combined with adaptable, efficient design solutions, guests will be invited to re-imagine their later years, leaving with new confidence to integrate customised automation into their own homes.

"These spaces demonstrate how artificial intelligence, environmental sensors, and related technologies can optimise daily activities and elevate the quality of life for seniors and their caregivers.

"A coordinating neighbourhood cafe, shared community patios, and fitness spaces were designed on-site to further illustrate the benefits of physical activity interventions, third places, and time in nature."

Student: Hallie Walker Gillespie
Course: IDES 699: Creative Project – Thesis
Tutor: Roberto Ventura
Email: hallie.walker[at]

Hand drawn interior of Reimagining Residential Life and Housing by Jenna Bramblet at Virginia Commonwealth University

Reimagining Residential Life and Housing by Jenna Bramblet

"First-year housing on campus is no longer adequate. The intent of this project was to design a residence hall that positively impacts students' academics, involvement, and overall well-being. To create a welcoming place that helps students find themselves and their place here at college.

"I am passionate about creating magic amongst what is considered the mundane. I aim to make every day a day that is filled with excitement, art and a little bit of imagination. Discovering the places that give you that unmistakable sense of atmosphere is what I go out in search of daily.

"Experiencing the feeling of wanting to be nowhere else but the present. These are the feelings I attempt to convey in my art and designs."

Student: Jenna Bramblet
Course: IDES 401: Senior Interior Design Studio II
Tutor: Emily Smith
Email: jennabramblet[at]

Fragmented and cut-out white card model by Lt Moon at Virginia Commonwealth University

Relief Revival Reincarnation by Lt Moon PhD

"This project seeks to improve the livability of the interior environment in public housing residential units by emphasising the design elements of light, dimensionality, circulatory liberation, relief and spatial adaptability in critical living areas.

"This is achieved while preserving the historical context of the community such that a renewed sense of choice, autonomy, ownership and connectivity is facilitated.

"The concept is influenced by Herman Hertzberger's theory of polyvalence, which is the capacity to design living spaces that are adaptable to occupant preferences without adjusting exterior building construction.

"Principles of polyvalence contradict the principles of determinism, which prescribes how spaces are intended to be used."

Student: Lt Moon PhD
Course: IDES 699: Creative Project – Thesis
Tutor: Roberto Ventura
Email: aderoltd[at]

Render of interior living space with yellow kitchen units and a green sofa

Armstead Lofts by Kyle Johnston

"This project is a boutique micro-apartment building and community space. It creates a place for residents to gather and build a tight community, as well as making sure there is no compromise to the amenity spaces.

"Using a bright colour palette and taking inspiration from 60s pop art, which was a time of progression in the civil rights movements and pushing the boundaries of art, I aimed to create a space of acceptance for college and postgraduate residents."

Student: Kyle Johnston
Course: IDES 401: Senior Interior Design Studio II
Tutor: Kristin Carleton
Email: kylejohnstonr[at]

Partnership content

This school show is a partnership between Dezeen and Virginia Commonwealth University. Find out more about Dezeen partnership content here.