American Design Hot List 2017
The architect, educator, and Cranbrook grad’s work only reinforces the sense that Chicago is America’s next big design destination. Her SET series for Volume Gallery, made from cylindrical wooden and fiberglass forms covered in an inky black lacquer, is the Darth Vader of furniture collections: cool, confident, and just a bit intimidating.
What is American design to you, and what excites you about it?
It’s free, open, inclusive, audacious, fast, ever-changing, challenging, and inventive — and that is exciting.
What are your plans and highlights for the upcoming year?
At the moment, I’m working on furniture for a group exhibition curated by Juan Garcia Mosqueda and opening in January at Friedman Benda. I’m producing a shelf, which has a scalloped form where curves are achieved via a slotted arrangement of wood planks. The piece redefines the function and typology of furniture, and obscures the clarity of the object and the relationship it has with a person and the space of a room. The shelf is an independently standing object which is attractive on all sides, allowing for a less common use and placement within the room. It could be positioned as a freestanding piece in the center of the room, or against the wall, where all sides would still remain visible. The shelf also acts as a space framing device.
My practice spans many scales – from drawings and furniture to full-scale installations and environments. In the next few months I’m anticipating an exciting expansion to incorporate interior design and architecture.
What inspires or informs your work in general?
I teach architecture at the School of Architecture at the University of Illinois at Chicago, where the architecture faculty is constantly exchanging ideas and producing a stimulating environment that in turn motivates me to produce more challenging work. I’m currently teaching a studio titled “All Columns Considered,” where I ask students to perform extensive research focusing on a specific architectural column type, its function or material, and its implementation in relationship to the building’s structure, interior and exterior. Students are appropriating, undermining, and/or exaggerating, and therefore reinventing the column’s impact on an architectural form. This in turn informs my own research and work.
I’m also interested in developing a skill set and knowledge of materials and fabrication techniques, which informs the work I produce. Another important factor is the collaboration with clients, institutions, and professionals who seek unconventional ways of approaching design. Those persons who recognize and favor bold and original work — whether a design for a building, interior, installation, furniture, or art — are a source of inspiration.