The Never Ending Project: Designing for Drones Across Continents

October 8, 2015

For a group of BFA Interior Design students at SVA, along with students from France and Australia, the desire to work across different time zones and cultures recently became an exercise in understanding how ideas travel and develop from different perspectives. Entitled “The Never Ending Project,” the collaboration among ESAG Penninghen, Paris; Swinburne University of Technology, Melbourne; and SVA ran from September 14 to 21 and challenged the group of students to design a home for drones (small, unmanned aerial vehicles that are remote-controlled by pilots).

“New York, Paris and Melbourne fall in three different time zones. The idea behind the collaboration was to work as in a relay,” explained Eduardo Lytton, senior systems administrator in BFA Interior Design at SVA, and the project’s academic coordinator for the New York team. “One group begins the work and hands the drafts to the next time zone and the second group modifies and develops it further and passes it on to the third.”

The project began with a practical task at hand—to design a cockpit or control room from where drones can be operated and a docking station from where drones can be launched, parked and recharged. “We were excited to think about how and why drones are used, and to create a space that kept these factors in mind,” said Hexio Wang, the SVA student coordinator for The Never Ending Project. “The possibilities in this area have not been explored enough, and that gave us room to innovate.”

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As the grids, materials and interfaces began to fall in place, the project became more conceptual and a nuanced learning experience. Past students of the Swinburne University of Technology had designed and developed a drone that can be used by the university to access sites in emergency situations, such as a fire. The Never Ending Project participants from the three cities personalized the drone control sites and the use of the drones to make it about showing their city to their counterparts in other continents.

“It was like being in an exchange program for a week,” said Jung-eun Sarah Hong. “Your drawings and your ideas would travel to two different countries before they came back to you. It was amazing to see how the design transformed and adapted to cultures and geographies as it kept circling the globe.” The end result is a futuristic and easily adaptive design that signals the use of the space and that employs sustainable materials.

Jane Smith, chair of BFA Interior Design at SVA, said that she was impressed by the design quality, visual and verbal expression of ideas, and the depth of technical exploration that was achieved by the students. “Our students had a rich learning experience and I expect this is only the beginning of a never-ending collaboration with our colleagues and their students in Paris,” she said.

The project came into being under the guidance of Jean LeLay, Gérard Vallin, and other faculty and staff of ESAG Peninghen in Paris, France. It is the culmination of an idea that sprang up during a dinner hosted by ESAG Peninghen last year, which Smith of SVA and Dr. Dolly Daou, course coordinator of Interior Architecture at Swinburne University, attended. The participating schools will hold exhibitions later in the academic year to showcase the work that was accomplished by the students, and The Never Ending Project will continue next year with a new batch of students and a new challenge to tackle together.

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