We are still processing the news of being a recipient of one of the 2022 National Design Awards. Rural Studio Director Andrew Freear and Associate Director Rusty Smith attended the gala along with Acting Dean Karen Rogers from the College of Architecture, Design and Construction (CADC) and Justin Miller, Head of the School of Architecture, Planning, and Landscape Architecture (APLA). They walked the red carpet, and when the ceremony turned to awardees, Andrew delivered the remarks for Rural Studio. The central message he delivered was that the award recognizes that people and place really do matter, and that everyone, wherever they live and no matter their circumstance, should have the right to beautiful, dignified, and equitable design.
Our folks were in excellent company across the board. Nader Tehrani represented another intersection of the architectural arm of design and a focus on equity, and Kounkuey Design Initiative (KDI), from the allied field of landscape architecture, was selected for work in places where socioeconomic inequity is extreme, environmental risks are high, and public investment is historically low. David Hertz won for his explicit work in climate action: his design of WEDEW, a self-contained, transportable, and sustainable water and energy generator that converts biomass into essential human resources. And Felecia Davis’s design is in computational textiles, or textiles that respond to their environment via programming, embedded sensors, and electronics, or by using the changeable properties of materials to communicate information to people. She applies this research and design in large part to architecture, and her work addresses social, cultural, and political constructions. All of these winners have a just, equitable, healthful future underpinning their efforts.
Two of our colleagues come out of the realm of fashion design. Cooper Hewitt aptly describes Willy Chavarria’s work as blending “the emotion of art and modern politics into a reactionary story of the human will,” with his fashions making anti-hate statements. Emily Adams Bode was selected as this year’s emerging designer, with her menswear brand and her designs for New York Fashion Week: Men’s not only incorporating historical techniques and female-centric traditions like appliqué but also focusing on sustainability through repair of articles of clothing.
Other recipients won for design that advances the human experience in other ways. The jury selected CW&T, the design duo of Che-Wei Wang and Taylor Levy, to recognize their insightful and product design that concentrates on improving everyday experiences. Their range of design impressively extends from interactive software to human-scaled tools. And Giorgia Lupi’s award recognizes her contributions to data visualization, with designs engaging data-driven narratives across print, digital, and environmental media that create new insight and appreciation of people, ideas, and organizations.
We can’t even come close to doing justice to the design work all of these colleagues are doing. Go to Cooper Hewitt’s “Meet the 2022 Winners” page to learn more about each of them. It’ll be well worth your time.
Rural Studio carefully transported to Newbern the trophy created by The Corning Museum of Glass, a trophy that in itself is a work of art. We are deeply humbled and honored to be recognized by the award’s Jury. The evening festivities from Wednesday night are over, but we will long be celebrating—as soon as the reality sinks in. And we’ll continue to champion the message of the rural, of people and place. It is being heard.
Images: 1, 4, 5, 8, 13 by Nikola Bradonjic, courtesy of Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum
Images: 3, 7, 10, 11, 12 by Liz Ligon, courtesy of Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum