Designing down to the last detail

In the workshop of Alfonso Architects Inc. in downtown Ybor, graduate students from the USF School of Architecture and Community Design (SACD) work with steel, concrete, wood and other materials to create handcrafted pieces of furniture that are not only functional, but pricelessly stunning.

Detail Making 2014 is the current exhibit on display in the USF Centre Gallery and contains drawings, models and physical pieces of work designed by nine graduate students in the SACD program. The work was produced as part of a course by the same name, taught by professor Giancarlo Giusti. 

The course focuses on the connection of materials and the systems created by the connection, a concept heavily emphasized in architectural design.

“It’s very easy to just place something, but if you now appreciate how things come together, it translates pretty well in architecture,” said Jesus Lopez, a third year graduate student in the SACD program.

Rarely do architecture students get the opportunity to work in real life scales or with actual building materials, both of which were primary components of this course.

“The course really enabled us to do things beyond just building with wood and whiteboards and other materials that you make models out of … I think working at a 1:1 scale and building something, as opposed to building a small model, really helps understanding what materials you can use and how you can apply it to architecture and building,” said Jenna Shawver, also a third year graduate student in the SACD program.

The semester began with an assignment to design a new staircase for the cue house of the historic St. Petersburg Shuffleboard Club, for which the students designed and created small scale models, and one of the proposed designs was chosen.

For the remainder of the course, the students were given three core assignments, which compose the majority of the exhibit. With primary focus on the connection of the materials being used, the students were required to design and construct a chair, a lamp and either a table or a repurposed item. 

Starting with drawings and designs, the students were permitted to utilize any materials they wished, including concrete, steel, wood, leather or any thing else they were able to obtain. Additionally, each student was responsible for learning how to manipulate the materials to create their pieces.

“It was kind of hard at first; the teacher wanted you to make something beautiful, but he also wants you to learn on your own,” Lopez said. “You learn how to think about things this in-depth and you can create anything you want to once you start thinking like that.”

Aside from creating aesthetically intricate pieces of art, the students got hands-on experience with materials that are common in the design of architectural structures.

“It helped to understand. We built the chair out of steel, and you can actually hold the steel and see how much it weighs, you can apply that when you’re designing a building and understand if something’s realistic or not,” Shawver said.

After realizing that the pieces created in the course were more than just functional, Shawver worked with the Centre Gallery and her fellow classmates to organize the exhibit, which is on display until Friday and will have its closing reception from 7 to 9 p.m.