There is a saying that a horse is a camel designed by a committee. I had the experience recently to work on the Parsons Solar Decathlon team, which is a competition to design and build the best solar powered home. Teams had two years to accomplish this and then bring their house to the National Mall in Washington DC for the week and a half long competition.
Back in January of 2009, teams were formed for architecture, communications, graphic design, interior design, etc. I was chosen for the second wave of interior design where furniture was chosen and sponsorship was sought. This may sound like a fun and awesome exercise, but in fact it was a lesson in collaboration and the frustration of committee decisions and the weakness of the result.
The team had about 30 architects at anyone time who work for a majority of time on the project because it was part of their studio class time. This gave them a feeling of ownership that was battled every time an interior design idea was presented. As you can see from the images above, the result of those battles in a fairly vanilla design where neutrals dominate and color is scarcely present.
At this point you may think that this was a gigantic waste of time (other than the great vendors that I had the opportunity to meet) but the most important aspect of this project in my mind was not the competition, but it was the fact that we were partnered with Habitat for Humanity. This house that we built would be delivered to a suburb of Washington DC where a family would then occupy it and we would donate the furnishings as well. During the competition week, the candidate family came to visit and it was awesome to see how happy they were with the work that we had put in. It made me forget the bickering and long hours sourcing committee approved pieces and in the end, brought me back to a very important realization that design, for the most part, is a service industry and happy clients are very rewarding.
Future homeowner Lakiya Culley and her three children