April 24, 2024 IA Collaborative Designs Room for Cancer Patient

Twelve-year-old Tony’s love for Godzilla, Legos and video games came to life this month as University of Tennessee, Knoxville, students from IA Collaborative partnered with the Knoxville chapter of Special Spaces for a room renovation.

“Watching Tony see the room was incredibly rewarding and heartwarming,” said Makenzie Karr, a first-year student and incoming philanthropy chair of IA Collaborative, the student chapter of IIDA and ASID. “For a family who has been going through a really hard time, to have people express love and care over them, is really special and to be able to do this for them was so impactful. It was a true picture of making dreams come true, and seeing the effect design can have on lives.”

The interior architecture students began working with Special Spaces, a not-for-profit organization creating dream bedrooms for children with cancer, last fall to fundraise for Tony’s room renovation. The nonprofit blended the organization’s community service and professional development missions.

“First and foremost, we are a professional development organization, so our goal is to help students work on their skill sets as a designer and to be prepared as an employee,” said Emmie Barnett, a fourth-year interior architecture student and vice president of IA Collaborative. “Working with an organization like Special Spaces, allows us to give back to the community while gaining residential design experience.”

With $1,500 to construct and furnish the young boy’s oasis, IA Collaborative hosted a competition for members to propose a design for Tony’s room with small groups across four cohorts. Barnett was a part of the winning team, “Godzilla likes Legos too.”

Students utilized the college’s woodshop to fabricate elements of Tony’s room renovation, including a feature wall of 3D building blocks. Sixteen Volunteers assisted Special Spaces in the installation of the design and seven were on-site when Tony first saw his new room.

“It has been a pleasure working with all of these young professionals,” said Amy Hensley, chapter director of Special Spaces. “They take everything we are doing very seriously and want to give their very best in each task they have been given. I think they should be very happy with the final reveal and getting to see the impact they helped to make on a very deserving 12-year-old boy’s life.”

IA Collaborative plans to continue their partnership with Special Spaces.