Designer: Felix Chun Lam & Joe Kenworthy
Location: Richmond, Canada
Award: Student Notable
Alcove is a ceiling storage partition intended for seasonal items in small homes. The concept is to utilize the ceiling in such way that the unit becomes a part of the architecture. Soft lighting and minimal form interplays to create a functional aspect to the ceiling without compromising floor space.
Like all other design projects, our project began with market research to see what existing products are already out there. We looked extensively into resource furniture and "space-saving" solutions, and analyzed it critically against our own criteria. One particular example that we looked into was Murphy-Beds that claim to free up space when the bed is hidden away into the wall. This naturally means that the space in front of the wall will always need to be clear in order for the system to be effective. And according our brief and criteria, that is not using the available space to its best potential.
Another example, elevator bed rides on the similar principles as Murphy beds except the bed elevates into the ceiling. The nature of the stationary time that beds take makes this type of "space-saving" system ineffective because during the time not in use, the area will always need to be free. This market research helped us further identify the problem, the opportunity and challenges. Low res prototyping and iterations helped us pin point concept that fulfill our criteria and weed out the impractical ones. Because one of our goals for the design is to allow it to become apart of the architecture, we moved quickly into full scale iterations to get the feeling in terms of scale and spatial qualities. We are certainly no contractors and engineers; therefore, we relied primarily research on existing mechanism that can cater to our design and make it a reality.
During the prototyping process, with a little modification to existing parts we have replicated what we envision the design to achieve. Our design process isn't complete without a thorough process of user and ergonomics testing. In a six participant focus group, we gathered data points that support the feasibility and acceptability of the concept. After a working prototype was completed we held a user trial to test the practicality and ergonomic factors of the prototype. All in all, the outcome of the design came from rigorous testing, trial and error and endless critical questioning.
Core77: What's the latest news or development with your project?
Several investors who wanted to further develop and commercialize our idea have approached us. Of course our project is in its infancy stage and there are practicality and engineering issues that still need to be worked on and resolved. We realize that the project still has deficiencies as pointed out by the jury team. However, we've also realized, as well as pointed out by the jury team, that our project has set precedence of an unconventional categorization of the furniture and storage design. We will continue to explore the possibilities of this "usual" category with hopes that it will shed light on solutions that will solve common problems society will encounter.
What is 1 quick anecdote about your project?
When working on a project that involves the ceiling, make sure you have a ceiling to work with. Our studio at the Emily Carr University has particularly high concrete ceilings with a variety of vents, pipes and cords winding their way throughout. So if you were not one of our fellow ID classmates or faculties from ECU, you wouldn't know that we actually had to construct our own functional floating, suspended ceiling in order to accommodate our project. When looking back at the project as a whole, the building, constructing and receiving permission to proceed with the ceiling, was almost more work than building our actual project itself. We always joked how if we knew in advance that dealing with the ceiling was this much work, we would have picked a much smaller venture to tackle. After this project, we finally understand why few people play around with the ceiling, it is truly one back breaking nut to crack! Technical difficulties and engineering complexities discourage many keen designers and inventors to tackle problems with the ceiling.
Read on for full details on the project and jury comments.