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Eco-friendly project reused for exhibition

By Billy Rafael
On February 25, 2013

Last week saw a new exhibition focused on a project called Upcycle unveiled in the Cage Gallery. A year-and-a-half in the making, Upcycle brought together over 150 architecture and interior design students and faculty to create a piece of art that was not only practical and educational, but resourceful. This exhibition features the process of this project from start to finish.

Associate professor of architecture Murali Paranandi was involved in Upcycle since the beginning. According to Paranandi, the idea came about in August 2011 when a group of students was interested in doing a practical application project that involved using interesting designs. This is where upcycling came into play.

"When we think of recycling, we think of taking something, reducing it to its raw elements, and then reusing that," senior Brandon Jacobs, who worked on the final project, said. "Upcycling is taking something as it is and elevating it, giving it a new purpose without destroying it."

The practicality of the project came when the students identified an issue affecting their department.

"The freshman [architecture] studio in Alumni Hall was getting too much direct sunlight through the south windows for a majority of the year, making it hard to work," Jacobs said. "Our task was to create a sunshade."

After dealing with getting the necessary permits for their construction, since the building was owned by the state, they realized they had a new problem: their permit was only good for nine months. They would have to design something that was easy to take down and, to hold true to the resourceful intention of the project, was easy to reuse.

"The students had to design a construction process that was safe, could be accomplished in chunks, making it easier to disassemble, and could be done in three days," Paranandi said.

The finished project involved used banners and hockey nets donated from the school that would have otherwise been thrown away as well as fishing nets, due to their "built-to-be-indestructible" nature. Banners were cut into strips, woven through nets, and hung to provide cover from the sun to the large windows. Two-by-fours were used for a base, but the entire project was designed to be "zero waste" meaning that there were to be no wasted material in the construction process.

The structure was installed at the end of last semester, yet unexpected weather, including high winds and snow, took a toll on the sculpture. While parts of it are still attached and can be seen on the top of Alumni Hall from Spring Street, much fell down.

"The project had to be designed to fail," senior Stacy Kotula, who also worked on the project, said. "Because it was being installed into the building, it had to be designed to come down naturally and not damage the building in case winds became like they did. It was a little sad coming back from break and seeing parts of it on the ground."

While the project had its setbacks, those involved feel it provided a valuable learning experience.

"It was a great exercise in working as an entire studio," Kotula said. "We all had different ideas of how we wanted the project to go but had to come together to get it done. Getting to know other members of the department was really enriching."

The exhibit features posters with the original instructions, pictures of the process, and parts of the original structure. Upcycle will be up through March 1 in the Cage Gallery, located in Alumni Hall, which is open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is free and open to the public.

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