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DI Details Newsletter May 2010 Design Institute of San Diego

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Practical Field Studies - Chabad Jewish Student Life Center


Celebrating Courtney Martin's Next Big Adventure


Practical Field Studies - Chabad Jewish Student Life Center

Research, collaboration, culture, evidence-based design...words that mean a lot to all interior designers but, in particular, to the students in Interior Design V (IDV) Design Institute of San Diego's institutional design studio course.

Considering the primary focus of the IDV class is research-based design, there's no better way to help students become familiar with these critical design issues than by asking them to immerse themselves in the culture of a real interior design client and an actual interior space.

For this assignment, ten ID V student teams worked independently to present a variety of innovative design solutions for the Chabad Jewish Student Life Center located on the San Diego State University campus.

"Students conducted field surveys, interviews and reviewed case studies to help them understand the unique nature of a Jewish community center," explains architect Lily Robinson, who instructed the course. "We approached the initial phase of this project as an ethnographic study. For some of these students, this was the first time they have ever visited a Jewish community center or spoken with a Rabbi."

The project clients, Dr. Rabbi Chalom Boudjnah and his wife Mairav, asked the student teams to develop preliminary design concepts for the center's 1950's building, which was formerly used as a fraternity house. Since moving into the space a few years ago, the client's intention has been to transform the existing main floor of the building into a synagogue and student lounge.

In response to the client's request, student teams used the results of their research efforts to develop design concepts that would accommodate weekly religious services. Their designs also had to accommodate meetings, social gatherings and study areas which serve to support the center's mission of bringing Jewish students together.

The ID V student design teams presented their concepts to a panel of jurors selected by the client at a "Designers' Challenge" style forum on Monday, March 22, 2010. Jury member, DI Alum and professional interior designer Helga Kohen, headed the panel, assisting the Rabbi and his wife in selecting the concept best suited to the Center's varied needs.

The winner - "SOHO Coffee House" - satisfied the client's desire for an upscale, urban gathering space to attract current SDSU students and young professionals. The clients also selected design elements from six of the other groups for incorporation into the final space.

The students are now in the final phase of design development and have begun the task of specifying and pricing furniture, finishes and detailing the custom pieces such as a curved bar, a "Mechitza" (a portable wall in the worship area) made of "3Form" and a wall of etched glass for signage at the entry foyer.

Three students will have an extended internship experience this coming summer, working on the implementation of the design under the direction and supervision of Helga Kohen.

The project is slated for completion in August, 2010. Watch this space for a follow-up story after the design concept has been completed and fully implemented.

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