Basil was a dog in need of a home. And with just 30 hours to assess the whippet’s personality and create and execute a design, a group of Washington State University design students were determined to give him one.
It was an intense competition with “a tremendously difficult timeline,” says Keith Diaz Moore, assistant professor of architecture and landscape architecture, who coordinated the annual design-challenge charrette for the Interdisciplinary Design Institute. “To complete everything in 30 hours is pretty amazing—and to see the delicacy of some of these solutions is fascinating.”
More than 100 students from a variety of disciplines—architecture, interior design, landscape architecture, and construction management—took part in this first-week-of-school event. They were broken into groups of four to five. For many, this was the first experience at WSU Spokane, having just moved to the Riverpoint campus to finish their degrees after two or three years in Pullman.
In the nine years since it started, the design challenge has had a community connection, which is kept secret until the charrette kickoff. This year, SpokAnimal, the Inland Northwest Humane Society, was the focus. With several dog-customers to choose from, the student groups planned, designed, and created model doghouses—many working through the night to complete the projects. They finished with life-sized cardboard models with a renowned designer or artist as inspiration. Characteristics of Warhol and Le Corbusier, as well as Asian temples, Dr. Seuss, and 1950s diner influences, could be seen in some of the finished structures.
The winning team chose Basil as their client. After meeting him and his new owner, Carol Byrnes, owner of Diamonds in the Ruff dog training, the team honed in on the canine’s capacity for speed, sleek lines, and graceful elegance. Their design, which was based on the Art Deco work of designer Raymond Loewy, was later rendered in wood and auctioned off in SpokAnimal’s October fundraiser at Northern Quest Casino.
“I really enjoyed the charrette,” said Kendra Lundahl, a senior architecture student and member of the winning team. “Throughout, our team tried to assess and utilize all the disciplines’ unique strengths, which really turned out to be effective. It was kind of hard at first to give up some of the control, but in the end it worked out better than I expected, because everyone got to do what they were best at.”
One lesson the team learned from the charrette was that they are their own toughest critics. “Afterwards, we were thinking about all of the ‘should haves,'” says teammate Whiney Wiggins. “It is nice when someone else looks at it and says ‘what a nice house.'”
Their project, along with a few others built in wood for the auction, got rave reviews. “It is absolutely fabulous!” says Byrnes of the final product. “I can see Basil lying in it in the corner of our living room. Or in a Hammacher Schlemmer catalog.”
“The house is a statement piece,” says Wiggins. “It is high-end doggy living—an indoor showpiece.”