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Thursday
Jun022011

Product Runway: Where Seattle Architects Show Their Fashion Flair

On June 3rd, Seattle architecture firms will compete head-to-head, not to design a building, but to build a designer dress à la “Project Runway” using interior finish materials. Now I’m not one to drool over high fashion or even get excited by a glimpse of Manolo Blahniks through a store window, but architecture services are what I market every day, so this is definitely my bag, baby.

Started in 2008, Seattle’s Product Runway “celebrates the reclamation of space and changing its dynamics with images or counter images, art that has been created anonymously and left on walls or in places such as public squares.” In other words: street art. Cool, but how does one translate that from a building to a dress? Good question.

I asked Christina Stewart, an Interior Designer at Gensler who has been the event’s Chair/Co-Chair the past 3 years, and Sam Sze, the Gensler Team Lead. Through an abbreviated interview, they offer insights into how to make a dress out of office furniture from Teknion & OM Workspace.

What are the challenges with designing for clothes vs.buildings/interiors?

Sam: Scale, and the construction details. The techniques in detailing and how to assemble garments are a little different compared with interiors / architecture details – they are intimate with the human body and movement in a way that means you need a different mindset and awareness of the subtleties of the human form. How something looks on a wall is completely different from how it will look worn by a person walking.

What is different or the same about designing clothes and buildings/interiors?

Christina: You can dream the biggest, wildest concepts, but if you can’t build it, in the end it doesn’t matter. Wardrobe “malfunctions” can be just as devastating as code violations…well, maybe only on the runway, but when that happens in front of 1000+ of your friends…

How has your sense of design changed now that you’ve gone through this process?

Sam: I learned something by working hands-on with the materials I don’t usually work with, playing with leather and building with the aluminum acrylic, fabric hinges, etc. and other materials. It made us think outside of the box. Who knows? Some of these material explorations might show up in construction details at some point.

Christina: The ability to blend artistic skills with “left brain” organization makes for highly effective teams…and highly effective architects and designers.

What is the most fun aspect of this experience?

Sam: Working with our partners at Teknion and OM Workspace, brainstorming with our team and working with the materials, experimenting. I think the teamwork was the best part of the process, building camaraderie. It was a lot of fun working on stuff together and chatting and getting to know each other – enjoying a glass of wine while making stuff. (Laughs)

Christina: I love that design professionals, product manufacturers and students that wouldn’t necessarily cross paths are brought together to collectively solve a design problem. You really get to know someone half a bottle of wine later when you’re all hunched over an industrial sewing machine.

To witness Seattle’s finest designers make high fashion, come to the Showbox Sodo, 1700 1st Avenue South Seattle, WA 98134 this Friday at 6:00pm. Tickets are available online, or save on surcharges by buying directly at either box office.

Christina Stewart an interior designer in Gensler’s Seattle office, works primarily with workplace clients in technology. As a Job Captain, she has collaborated and led teams on fast-paced tenant improvement projects. Christina’s technical and communications skills allow her to provide creative solutions for her clients. You can email her at christina_stewart@gensler.com.
Samuel Sze is an interior designer at Gensler’s Seattle office with a diverse background in corporate workplace including financial, professional services, and technology. Sam is a whiz at CAD and 3D rendering programs. Shoot him an email at samuel_sze@gensler.com.

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