Alumni

Claire Laurence

M.Arch'15

What kind of work are you doing?
I have been working for Contemporary Architecture Practice (CAP Shanghai), leading the design and fabrication of a high-end hotel extension, which includes an art gallery, wine tasting school, restaurants, lounges as well as museum type stores. The shifting programs, from public to private, have shifting formal intensities; the more intimate lounge spaces take on a richer color palette of wines and cognacs, becoming more and more voluptuous. With this project, we are testing new technologies and how different materials, such as Ultrasuede fabrics, Corian or Barrisol lights, nest into more normative materials as well as milled panels. The idea was to design each space with custom milled furniture which nest into architectural components.

What led you to your current position?
Ali Rahim was my studio professor in the final year of my master. We were working on the design of an Alexander McQueen store in Omotesando, Tokyo, inspired by the exuberance of his haute couture garments. He then offered me a full-time position at CAP Shanghai.

What attracted you to the firm or position?
Working for a small design boutique firm, I have a stronger design voice and more responsibility. This position allowed me take on a leadership role in a highly customized project, immediately after graduation, accelerating my growth as a designer and as a person. Living and working within a different cultural framework in Shanghai is also an interesting design problem in itself: how is design at once site or culturally specific, but also universally understood?

How did your studies at PennDesign prepare you for your work there?
It not only gave me the technical tools to accomplish thoughtful designs, but also expanded my critical thinking and allowed me to meet great designers and thinkers.

What courses, studios or instructors had the greatest influence on your work or thinking?
Ferda Kolatan’s studio had a very thought-provoking process, which lead to the design of a geology museum with a sense of textured muteness. Ali Rahim’s Tokyo studio on haute couture architecture, Ben Krone’s studio on housing for the deaf as well as Katrin Mueller’s furniture design class, which lead to an exhibition at the Philadelphia Museum of Art of a 3d-printed chair I designed, make me rethink what is relevant in design today.

What was the best part of studying at PennDesign? In Philly?
I would say Philadelphia is an underrated city with a lot to offer, in terms of museums, informal food markets and art. The best part of PennDesign is the sheer talent and passion for design aggregated in one place, where a network of ground-breaking ideas and forms take shape. The traveling studios and traveling scholarships, which allowed me to travel to Mexico City, Tokyo and Spain, are a great part of the PennDesign experience.

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