December 17, 2019 Students Design Future Workplaces with Technology, Human-Centered Design

During fall 2019, Interior Architecture Assistant Professor Rana Abudayyeh and Adjunct Assistant Professor Hochung Kim encouraged their studios to explore workplaces of the future. 

They started with a trip to California in September to research some of the world’s most successful and progressive companies, Gensler, Google, Pixar and others. Back in Knoxville, the two studios went in slightly different directions, but the shared idea was to create a workspace fit for the world’s evolving technology and social dynamics. Read more about the two studios.

Abudayyeh’s studio designed an Amazon Prime air fulfillment center, which uses drones to deliver packages to customers.

Amazon Prime air fulfillment center designed by Lauren Podraza

Fourth-year student Lauren Podraza participated in Abudayyeh’s studio this fall. Her design for the Amazon fulfillment center includes steel tubes to transport drones and showcase them to workers and visitors. The tubes run vertically through the building, so visitors can see the drones in action. Podraza’s idea for this came from studying frozen methane gas bubbles in Alberta Lake in Canada, which sparked her idea to use suspended animation, via the steel tubes, in her design.

“This studio was challenging because we had to incorporate flying technology into a workplace,” Podraza said. “Many questions were raised on how they should interact and if they should even be seen, but in today’s world, technology is a huge part in people’s everyday lives. We worked hard and found a way to incorporate the two.”

Kim’s studio designed a research-based office space that would exist on UT’s campus in an existing indoor student aquatic center.

Third-year student Caitlin Turner studied Apple’s campus in Cupertino, Calif., to discover the importance of connections and continuity in the workplace. Her workplace design aims to connect employees with each other, promote health and wellbeing and encourage an open flow of ideas, much like Apple’s campus.

Mackenzie Talbert's designs for the fall 2019 workplace studio

Mackenzie Talbert, 3rd-year student in Kim’s studio, went in a different direction. Her research looked into the history of factories, which led her to her design composed of rentable art studio spaces, classrooms and gallery space. This unique design has no defined end because it’s built to weave around itself, connecting all aspects of the building.

“Before this class, if I was asked if office design could be interesting, I would’ve said no,” Talbert said. “But after doing this [studio], I found that offices that really focus on the human-environment relationship can be incredibly interesting and beautiful.”

Elizabeth Elrod, 3rd-year student in Kim’s studio, worked with Talbert in the preliminary research phase of this project. Elrod diverted from Talbert’s idea, focusing on the current site’s surroundings, which prioritize health and wellness. Working with the human body, Elrod took inspiration from functions of the body, particularly the circulatory system, to create an interconnected design. She views her building as “a prosthetic aid for the work environment.”

Elizabeth Elrod's designs for the fall 2019 workplace studio

“I got to help make a space that aided the needs of the clients and their passion and work,” Elrod said. “That is what architecture encompasses, and to be able to use my craft to benefit and guide the craft of others, it truly enlightens me and reminds me of the importance of our work, as well as the impact that I and all designers have.”