Davis Owen, BA12 with a major in architecture, will study the meaning of contemporary craft in Finland this summer as the recipient of the 2012 Steedman Summer Travel Fellowship.
Awarded annually to students in the College of Architecture and Graduate School of Architecture & Urban Design, the fellowship supports summer travel and investigation of an architectural topic of the student's choosing. Recipients are selected by the Steedman Fellowship Governing Committee on the basis of their proposed study outline, portfolio of work, and academic achievement, and must present their research to the student body in the fall.
"My interest in craft has been with regard to new technologies and how it's so easy to draw a form in virtual space now that can be realized quickly," Owen says. "With rapid prototyping, it's pretty easy to turn a virtual shape into a physical shape. I'm interested in what that progress means, in terms of the types of spaces and furniture we’re making."
Helsinki—which is designated as the World Design Capital for 2012 —will serve as the base city for Owen's research. In addition to investigating the range of design presented as part of this international project, he will meet with Finnish design groups and visit local furniture manufacturers, documenting the design processes for each group with particular attention to the role of digital technology for drafting, prototyping, revision, and production. He will also make trips to the other Finnish cities and towns to gain a richer understanding of how the country's design culture is responding to advancing digital technology.
"Finland is the most opportune nation in which to study the evolving role of craft," Owen says. "The country has a strong history in the design field, and it continues to create some of the finest examples of contemporary furniture and architecture. Finland also has such a clear design aesthetic. Many nations have created strong works of design, yet Finland's design philosophy has maintained specific characteristics for several hundred years."
Pentti Kareoja—professor at Aalto University's School of Arts, Design, and Architecture, lecture abroad for the Sam Fox School's Helsinki international semester, and licensed architect with Ark-House—will serve as Owen's adviser, facilitating connections with local designers, industry professionals, and academics.
MArch/MLA student Joanie Walbert also has been awarded a 2012 Steedman Summer Travel Fellowship. Her research, which will take place at a later date, will focus specifically on the ways in which humans have used architecture and landscape architecture to retrofit the terrain in the Republic of Georgia in accordance with hydrological needs.