Indiana State University Newsroom

Class project is child's play

March 3, 2014

To some, a class project is tedious work.

Indiana State University students in a first year interior architecture design class were pleasantly surprised when their project involved designing and building two full-size playhouses, which were auctioned off as a fundraiser for Chances and Services for Youth.

"While this is a drafting class, I wanted students to learn the importance of construction and how things go together," said Azizi Arrington-Bey, assistant professor of interior architecture design.

Arrington-Bey said the construction of the full-size playhouses, funded by grants from the Center for Community Engagement and The Lily Endowment, was the culmination of a series of projects for her freshmen students.

She started out instructing her students to use a nursery rhyme to construct a two dimensional poem before asking her students to draw designs that describes a toy or pastime. Those themes found their way onto research boards, two sets of models and eventually design plans.

For Indianapolis freshman Taylor Harrell, the design idea came very quickly.

"I knew immediately that I wanted to design a barnyard playhouse," he said. "When I was little -- and still to this day -- wish that I could live on a farm with livestock especially horses because it's my favorite animal. I thought there had to be more kids out there who wanted to live on a farm as well, so I wanted to bring a small piece of that to someone's backyard."

Freshman Taylor Nobbe's playhouse design was titled Stump Lodge and it came straight from nature. Circular, resembling a tree stump with a rustic interior.

"The hardest part was designing the structure, since it had to meet the dimensions of 6 feet by 6 feet," she said.

Once the individual designs were narrowed down to two and fine-tuned, it came time to turn two dimensional ideas into three-dimensional realities.

Arrington-Bey's students partnered with construction management scheduling and estimating classes, who prepared a materials list, cost estimate and construction schedule. The actual construction of the playhouses was done jointly by the interior design class and student volunteers from construction and safety management.

The collaboration built synergy within the College's Built Environment division while showcasing how interior design works.

"This project illustrates that people working in interior design actually design and build things," she said. "We don't just pick out finishes."

Interior design students received training on the woodshop's machinery as well as direction on how to construct their designs.

"They all learned how to use a table saw," Arrington-Bey said, smiling.

While this class was an introductory drafting class, the students learned a valuable lesson from their instructor.

"You can't draft if you don't know how the building is put together," Arrington-Bey, a licensed architect, said. "Going from research boards to study models, final models and designs is how things work in the real world."

That approach for an entry-level class came as a pleasant surprise for her students.

"My first initial thought is that we were just going to learn the fundamentals of design and build on the knowledge that we came in with, but it wasn't like that at all," Harrel said. "Yes, we did learn the basics but we also got the opportunity to get hands-on experience. I learned how to work better with a team of people and how to deal with all different types of people that one will come by when working in a team."

When it was all over, two large playhouses were on their way to new homes with children anxious to enjoy them. For the interior design students, there was a sense of pride and achievement.

"The feeling of being able to come up with a design idea and see it all come together is truly an amazing feeling," Harrell said. "Building the playhouse only made me love interior design even more."


Writer: Paula Meyer, ISU Communications and Marketing, 812-237-3783 or