This June the Santa Fe Art Institute convened the third annual Design Workshop in collaboration with the Sustainable Native Communities Collaborative—a nonprofit that works with Native communities to realize their built environment goals. This year, Design Workshop brought together students interested in the design profession to address a real-world design challenge: mobile architecture.

With an increasing number of people on the move, both by choice and necessity, designing flexible and multi-functional structures has become a growing concern for public interest designers. Mobile, temporary, and environmentally-responsive structures have existed since humans began constructing settlements. Many of these vernacular forms (the yurt, tipi, tent, thatch hut, wigwam, etc.) have influenced the contemporary exploration of mobile architecture. With the advent of the machine age and pre-fab technology in the mid-twentieth century, designers gained a set of tools to develop new prototypes that addressed the needs and challenges of our ever-changing world. The 2017 SFAI Design Workshop responded to this need for temporary, multi-purpose architecture through developing a mobile, multi-purpose, art pod.

Over four weeks, Design Workshop students between the ages of 16-19 worked both independently and collaboratively to research, design and build a Mobile Art Pod to serve as a listening/work station to bring an art and design platform into neighborhoods adjacent to the Santa Fe Art Institute. Through sketching and mapping exercises, interviewing artists, and learning hands-on fabrication, the students developed many important design and making skills.

Design Workshop is taught by faculty from SNCC and SFAI, with input and critiques by SFAI artists-in-residence. The curriculum focuses on a thorough integration of hands-on shop work, ‘paper’ design process, and model making. Workshop participants explored guided practice while drawing, researching precedents, selecting materials and prototyping products often in the same day. First, each student went through training and certification in the wood shop and metal shop equipment at Make Santa Fe. Next, with abundant technical support from the team at Extraordinary Structures, the Workshop team modeled, tested and built full-scale designs ranging from furniture items—such as coat racks, stools and small tables—to the Mobile Art Pod (MAP) itself. The MAP prototype, conceived as a means for SFAI residents and other artists to take their work outside the traditional studio, was constructed as a custom bike trailer with ample storage space, projection surfaces, and magnetic surfaces for mounting flat reference and art materials.. The MAP vehicle shows the promise of such an approach for mobilizing art practice. Using the MAP, local artists and artists-in-residence could pedal their ideas and materials to any number of local sites to both engage and create with and within community.

SFAI Design Workshop culminated at the AHA: Art of the Machine Festival, which celebrates the vibrant and multifaceted art zone emerging in and around Santa Fe’s Siler-Rufina Arts District.

2017 SFAI Design Workshop Mobile Art Pod

Artist Joerael Elliot activated the MAP platform during the Art of the Machine Festival using the MAP as both a ‘canvas’ for a narrative art piece and demonstrating the utility of the MAP to support art work in the field. We look forward to future Design Workshops and the exciting cross-pollination they foster between youth participants, SFAI artists in residence, and the wider Santa Fe arts community.

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