The competition tasked students with redesigning an existing space of choice with new innovations, functions and originality to repurpose the space. The project was completed during School of Interior Architecture Lecturer Tim Dolan’s 3rd-year studio in fall 2021 where students worked in partnership with UT’s McClung Museum of Natural History and Culture.
Gilstorf’s proposal was based on the museum’s malacology exhibit. “Malacology” is the study of mollusks, and the UT McClung Museum has one of the most extensive malacology collections in the Southeast. Currently, the malacology exhibit is hidden on the bottom level in a corner of the museum, but Gilstorf’s design proposal changes that.
“Mollusks are a vital part of aquatic ecosystems in the southeastern region, and scientists at UT have done comprehensive work and research regarding their many species,” said Gilstorf. “Thus, it only made sense to pay homage to the hard work and expose the public to this lesser-known, yet integral, research.”
In Gilstorf’s proposal, entitled “Treasures Past and Present,” the exhibit would move to a featured area on the main floor of the museum and present the collection in an exciting, immersive and unique environment.
Gilstorf’s design features an interactive shell that guests, particularly children, can climb into and take photos for social media. This interactivity promotes both the museum and the malacology exhibit to the public. The design also features a “touch tank,” a tactile experience for guests. The tank employs the technique of texture mimicking in order to protect the humanity of the organisms and the integrity of the artifacts, while also creating a connection between the real, though non-living, specimens in the collection.
“The overall design inspiration for the space was to implement the illusion of being immersed underwater, living among the specimens that are being observed and displayed through the use of custom columns that imitate the riverbed and lighting with projections to enhance the illusion,” Gilstorf said.
Enjoy a video about Gilstorf’s design.
“I learned to let go of my design and allow for playfulness and how to push the design to be inventive and whimsical,” she said.
As the student winner of the IIDA competition, Gilstorf was recognized during the organization’s award ceremony on Sept. 22, 2022. According to the IIDA, the design awards “honor design excellence within the IIDA Tennessee community and celebrate innovative solutions for interior spaces.” Entries are judged on originality, innovation, function and design unity.