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Environmental design interiors students, children from SU’s Early Childhood Education and Child Care Center collaborate on a special project to develop designs for entries and passageways
Environmental design interiors students, children from SU’s Early Childhood Education and Child Care Center collaborate on a special project to develop designs for entries and passagewaysFebruary 28, 2001Judy Holmesjlholmes@syr.edu
At first glance, it would seem that students enrolled in the Environmental Design Interiors (EDI) Program in Syracuse University’s College for Human Development would have little in common with preschool children from SU’s Early Education and Child Care Center, located on South Campus. However, on March 2, the children and EDI students will participate in a workshop from noon to 2 p.m. to explore and develop designs for the entries, passageways and thresholds that make up the children’s preschool environment.
About 10 EDI students in Lara Turney’s spring Architecture for Interiors course (EDI 149) will work in teams with the preschoolers and students from the School of Education who are enrolled in an early childhood education course offered by the College for Human Development’s Child and Family Studies Program. The teams will be assigned to design and build a model of an entryway for one of eight sites located within the building, says Mary Cunningham, head teacher at the Early Education and Child Care Center. Some of the models will be made into full-scale entryways by the EDI students and installed at the center.
The workshop is part of a larger, two-year endeavor at the Early Education and Child Care Center to make the building a more welcoming place for children–both inside and outside. Last year, under the guidance of the center’s artist-in-residence, Barbara Drosse-Furlong, the children made a large ceramic turtle sculpture that sits outside the front door of the building to greet the children as they arrive. The children, their parents and the center’s staff surrounded the turtle with a “habitat,” which includes a walkway and a rock garden.
“This is a building for children, yet there has been nothing on the outside of the building that announces that,” Cunningham says. “We often forget how crucial and delicate transitions can be for both adults and children. Physical spaces can be designed to ease transitions. We want our doorway to announce to parents and children that this is a place where they are welcome and supported. The turtle was the first step in that process.”
This year, Drosse-Furlong, a Central New York ceramist who specializes in handmade and wheel-thrown functional and decorative ware, is helping the children create ceramic models of archways, columns, their faces and other three-dimensional objects that will be incorporated into a mosaic that will adorn the outer cement walls on either side of the front door. Beth Abbott, an art education graduate student in the College of Visual and Performing Arts, is the second artist-in-residence for this project. She will be adding assemblage in mixed media pieces to the mosaic.
The center’s artist-in-residence program and the mixed media mosaic are funded by a grant from the New York Foundation for the Arts. The student-led workshop is funded by SU’s Vision Fund initiative, which enables faculty members, staff and academic departments to pursue innovative learning opportunities for students.
Since September, the preschoolers have worked on a variety of classroom projects designed to help them understand in very visual ways that doors are more than barriers to the outside and that thresholds and entrances to rooms inside buildings are more than holes in walls. Part of that preparation included designing rooms and entryways for the “door house,” which was built and installed in the center’s “big room” by Marie Martini, a junior EDI major who is working with Turney to coordinate the students’ efforts.
The door house has four rooms–an animal room, a babies room, a food room and a puppies/kittens room. The children selected the themes for the rooms and designed a unique entryway for each room that announces what is in the room. For example, the babies room has a circular door that contains baby pictures of all the children, and the animal room has an archway composed of a collage of animal pictures.
Like the children, Turney’s students have also investigated passageways as part of their coursework, albeit on a different level. The students spent the first several weeks of the spring semester investigating doors and passageways from different parts of the world.
“The project is primarily about helping both the students and children become better observers of their physical environment,” says Turney, assistant professor of environmental design and interiors. “The students investigated how culture influences the design and usage of doors, passageways, thresholds and windows. They selected a specific country or ethnic group and researched the culture, and the architectural forms and passageways used within that culture in a variety of settings, including sacred structures, residential homes and institutions.”
The EDI students developed three-dimensional models of their findings and presented the models to the education students during a workshop held a few weeks ago, during which both groups of students made plans for the March 2 event. The models were left at the center for the preschoolers to see. The children were delighted with the models and insisted on developing some of their own. And, with Cunningham’s help, the children developed paper copies of entryways from Japan, Greece, India and Korea based on the students’ models.
“The children got a chance to ask questions about the models and, in the process, learned new concepts about doors and passageways,” Cunningham says. “The concept of doors and passageways is such a rich subject. We have been able to come at it in multiple ways that have been both inspirational for the children and a lot of fun.”