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Environmental Design Exhibition Wins Best Design School Category at ICFF; NY Times Highlights MICA's Involvement

MICA Presented the Winning Project, "MICA (Material Inspired Concepts & Artifacts)"

Posted 05.17.10 by mica communications

"Twigs shelf" design by MICA student Lisa Kaliczak

NEW YORK--MICA's department of environmental design was voted the best design school at the 22nd annual International Contemporary Furniture Fair (ICFF) in New York, May 15-18. With competitors including Yale, Parsons and Pratt, MICA took home the top honor in the much-lauded category. The winning project is based on finding new solutions for natural materials. Metropolis magazine noted the students' "ingenious" design concepts.

MICA presented MICA (Material Inspired Concepts & Artifacts), an exploration of good, old materials and how they can be used in the future. In MICA, students transformed age-old materials--cotton, bamboo, wood, terra-cotta, silk, etc.--into environmentally friendly products for the future via classic and new technologies.

READ: The New York Times' inside look at ICFF.
READ: Metropolis' review of MICA's work.
READ: Fast Company's round up of the ICFF's winners.
READ: Core77's feature of MICA's project.
• WATCH: Video by Metropolis (below)

Video caption: MICA from Metropolis magazine on Vimeo.

"Materials that have been around for a long time have been able to evolve and prove themselves to be safe, sustainable, and pleasant to use and work with," said MICA instructor Inna Alesina. "Humans have slowly perfected craft techniques for using traditional materials in smart, minimal and safe ways. It is time for a new generation of designers to dig into the rich history of ancient materials and re-discover jute, bamboo, wool, cotton, terracota, banana leaves, cork and even earth itself. Let's carefully craft our future."

Expandable Stool design by John McGlewClick here to view images of the winning designs as well as read about the students' creative process.

Metropolis magazine said: "The school's low-tech exhibition, also called MICA (for Material Inspired Concepts & Artifacts), uses simple materials simply. Jute, cork, felt, and banana leaf are the basis for projects that wear their lack of elaboration as a (reclaimed-from-the-scrap-heap) badge of honor: a canopy for outdoor living, a transparent hemp body pillow with a striking geometric structure, bamboo digging tools to get tykes connected to the dirt, and a braided hemp-and-jute sandal with a removable banana-leaf insole."

The author of the article also seemed to marvel at some of the design materials and concepts used by the students. "The most ingenious designs revel in the struggle, delight, and mess of production. To make the nappy cloth of her felt purse, Sunny Chong drove around town for several days while sitting on a plastic bag filled with a mix of wool, water, and soap. A little friction and body heat and--presto!--felt."

ICFF Editors AwardsICFF annually hosts a juried exhibition of design's next generation from prestigious schools around the world. Click here to read MICA's original proposal sent in to enter the juried competition, which ultimately chose six premiere design schools: ArtFuture, Konstfack, MICA, Parsons The New School for Design, Pratt Institute and YSOA (Yale School of Architecture).

In 2009, the environmental design department collaborated with a M.F.A. in Graphic Design class and was noted by Metropolis magazine then, as well. Click here to read about the project, called Greener Groceries.

The much-anticipated 2010 ICFF Editors Awards were bestowed in 16 categories. The ICFF Editors Awards Ceremony took place Sunday, May 16, at the ICFF Exhibitors Reception at New York City's Jacob K. Javits Convention Center. This year's ICFF Editors Awards Committee: Arlene Hirst, Anniina Koivu of Abitare, Jessica Johnson of Azure, Stefano Casciani of Domus, Sam Grawe of Dwell, Gilda Bojardi of Interni, Chantal Hamaide of Intramuros, Susan S. Szenasy of Metropolis, Benjamin Kempton of Wallpaper.

More information about the environmental design program and its participation in ICFF can be found here.

Photo caption: (top) Twigs shelf design by MICA student Lisa Kaliczak; (inset) Expandable stool design by MICA student John McGlew.

Founded in 1826, Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA) is the oldest continuously degree-granting college of art and design in the nation. The College enrolls nearly 3,500 undergraduate, graduate and continuing studies students from 49 states and 52 countries in fine arts, design, electronic media, art education, liberal arts, and professional studies degree and non-credit programs. With art and design programs ranked in the top ten by U.S. News and World Report, MICA is pioneering interdisciplinary approaches to innovation, research, and community and social engagement. Alumni and programming reach around the globe, even as MICA remains a cultural cornerstone in the Baltimore/Washington region, hosting hundreds of exhibitions and events annually by students, faculty and other established artists.

Related links:

One student's project:
Barrel Planter

By Lorraine Nicoletta

Barrel Planter

"Barrel Planter makes a mess-free and contained space for your favorite plant or vegetable. This product consists of a bag filled with soil and seeds and a housing unit for your bag. Just water the soil and watch the plants grow. At the end of the season, return the sac to where it was purchased so that it can be composted, and roll up and store the housing unit till next season, when you can get another bag and fresh plants.

The barrel unit is made of mahogany or red cedar, which is durable and long-lasting. The curved design is based on nature and the blossoming of flowers. The design is inspired by barrels, which use planks to make a curve and are held in place by two straps. This construction allows for easy assembly and disassembly. The bag is made of burlap, so that when the plants die all the contents can be composted."