MFA Interior Design Studio on Homelessness Featured in the New Yorker


This spring, students in their second semester of the MFA Interior Design Program had the opportunity to take a studio class with artist and interior designer Kevin Walz and architect Alex Schweder addressing the urgent issue of homelessness in New York City. The studio was called  Housing the Homeless, and the studio was profiled by Andrea Denhoed in the May 14 issue of the New Yorker.

Throughout the spring semester students spent significant time in observation. They volunteered at shelters, conducted interviews with victims of homelessness and documented the process through drawing, video, photography and writing.

With a focus on key groups of homeless and their specific needs, students created projects which produce faster, less costly, more productive and more beautiful solutions than are currently being offered by New York City for it’s homeless.

Graduate Interior Design students from Parsons School of Design and Pratt Institute shared resources, lectures and programs to tackle this complex social issue which is growing in New York City and in the United States.

Students were required to come up with design proposals that were plausible and affordable. The range of approaches was broad, including designs for transitional housing for foster children aging out of care, a culinary school, subsidized rental housing, and a housing community of shipping containers on a disused Manhattan pier.  They presented their final projects to a jury of critics including architect Calvin Tsao, Interior Design Editor Cindy Allen, and the actor Susan Sarandon, all of whom have become active in addressing the deepening crisis of homelessness, both within New York City and globally.

The video below is by MFA Interior Design student Liza Kuhn (MFA ID ’16). It was created as part of Housing the Homeless and is discussed in the New Yorker article, in which she explains that the studio was “emotionally exhausting, in a good way.”