Streets ahead: New Zealand students win top design award

A group of masters students from Auckland University of Technology took their design skills to Paris last month and used local inspiration to take out a very international competition.

Sarah Loggie, Jacques Foottit, Lisa Clist, and Jenna Gavin made up the group that competed in the annual European Street Design Awards. The students are all members of COLAB, a “collaboratory” for design and creative technologies at AUT. Colab’s team includes students with expertise in programming, interaction design, social media and communication design, and social games development.

Competing for the Trophée du Conseil Général de Deine-Saint-Denis, the New Zealand quartet were up against eight other teams from around the world. The teams were each from design schools in their respective countries which included Egypt, Italy, India, England, Netherlands, Austria, and France.

The competition took place over five days from the 6th – 10th June in Montreuil, east of central Paris, an area which is known for its creative and artistic communities. The ancient area holds the largest percentage of creative workers per population, making it a fitting base for the 2016 event.

The competition itself sees the young design teams work closely with local residents and policy makers to create innovative “smart” urban community solutions. They’re provided with a creative space for the three days leading into their presentation that provides them with prototyping machines and other resources.

Image by Lisa Clist (L-R: Jacques Foottit, Sarah Loggie, Jenna Gavin, Lisa Clist)

The competition brief for 2016 was to redesign an unused and neglected transitional space with the overarching goal to improve quality of life through economic, social, and cultural measures.

The New Zealand team were assigned to the Les Ruffins area that is made up of apartment blocks, older residential buildings, high-performance sports facilities, and several higher education facilities.

Team member Jacques Foottit told AUT that their winning idea was to introduce a range of transitional spaces.

“Drawing inspiration from the city of Christchurch, and how locals there responded to losing the heart of the city by building temporary spaces, we developed a plan for an incremental approach to designing the space. It can begin immediately, with local artists and craftspeople constructing temporary objects for the space. These objects would be moveable, allowing the public to explore how they would like to use the space. More importantly, it begins to give the space an identity, and lets the locals know that something is happening and they can be involved.”

Colab’s Co-director Frances Joseph also attended the event. She says, “This was an exciting opportunity to foster contact and exchange between New Zealand and France, promoting information exchange and knowledge sharing about creative technologies and design for social innovation approaches in each country, for developing creative linkages and enhance deeper understanding of respective lifestyles, cultures, tastes and environments.  

Main image by Jacques Foottit