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Interior architecture & product design student from Sabetha wins national design competition

Friday, Jan. 16, 2015



MANHATTAN — Interior architecture & product design students at Kansas State University's College of Architecture, Planning & Design push their designs to adapt to current needs of today's society. Fourth-year student Emma Montgomery, Sabetha, applied this knowledge to claim the grand prize in a recent national design competition.

The NEXT Student Design Competition, hosted by international furniture design company Steelcase, asked students to design a two-story building for classes and collaboration at a hypothetical liberal arts college called NEXT University. More than 800 students participated in the competition, rising to the challenge of designing a learning environment for the future. After a self-jurying process at the school level, 98 submissions were selected for review by judges. Five semifinalists — including Montgomery — were chosen to continue in the competition.

The competition challenged students to design a space that would allow learning to happen everywhere — not just in the classroom. For her design, Montgomery was inspired by the concept of urban porosity.

"The concept of porosity creates emphasis on collaboration by increasing transparency in team work areas and decreasing it to allow for private focus study spaces," she said.

Montgomery took inspiration for her design from a number of sources, including recent research and case studies of schools such as Texas Tech University and Stanford University, where nontraditional approaches to learning spaces have been installed to push the boundaries of creativity.

"By understanding the precedent studies, my design aims to accommodate 'alone' and 'together' work modes," Montgomery said. "Throughout a work café, classrooms and in-between spaces, a range of furniture is utilized to support social, focus and collaboration between students. Additionally, in-between learning spaces are incorporated for impromptu meetings."

Steelcase provided the five semifinalists a custom Think chair — a registered trademark — and an all-expenses paid trip to Steelcase University in Grand Rapids, Michigan, from Jan. 11-13 to present their project to a judge's panel and meet with thought leaders. Montgomery was named the grand prizewinner, receiving $1,000, with Steelcase donating another $1,000 to the Kansas State University's interior architecture & product design department.

Katherine Ankerson, professor and department head of interior architecture & product design, said, "I am pleased to see Emma's work recognized in this manner and in such a national arena. Rethinking design for higher education involves recognizing how students learn and the role of the environment in supporting those learning modes and styles. The combination of Emma's research and design provided a provocative approach to the problem, and was supported through an immensely effective mentoring sponsorship of the studio course by professionals in the Dallas Gensler office."

"I am especially grateful to my professor Neal Hubbell and Gensler mentor, Allison Seyler, for their help and encouragement throughout the project," Montgomery said.


Katherine Ankerson


College of Architecture, Planning & Design

News tip


Written by

Mary Cosimano

At a glance

Emma Montgomery, a fourth-year interior architecture & product design student at Kansas State University, is the grand prizewinner of the NEXT Student Design Competition, sponsored by Steelcraft.