Industrial Design Program Creates Play Structure at Auburn’s Art Museum

The Lethander Art Path outside the Jule Collins Smith Museum of Fine Art allows patrons to get close to large sculptures on the museum grounds. But few of these sculptures are as interactive as “Composition,” the latest art installation on the path. Designed by students and faculty in Auburn’s industrial design program, “Composition” is intended to be enjoyed by some of the museum’s youngest visitors.

Students in Jerrod Windham’s third year studio and Tin-Man Lau’s fourth year studio in the School of Industrial and Graphic Design (SIGD) were asked to develop designs that were both creative and interactive. After a group visit to the site and discussions with classmates and faculty, student Lea Hicks, who graduated in 2019, thought of building a structure inspired by Piet Mondrian, a 20th century Dutch artist who created abstract art based on simple geometric shapes. Her classmate Tianrui Chang, who graduated this past spring, helped shape that vision into the final design.

Once they had a clear idea of what the structure would look like, Windham and Lau approached long-time SIGD industry partner PlayCore. Tom Norquist, professor of practice in industrial design at Auburn and Senior Vice President at PlayCore, led a team of designers who worked closely with Windham and Lau on the fabrication and installation of the structure. “The company and their subsidiaries have been a great partner for our program over the years,” said Windham. “It was wonderful working with Tom and the designers there.” Funding and in-kind resources were provided both by the museum and PlayCore.

Windham says that no individual is credited with the design but that the structure was developed by students and faculty working together. “I got into design because I liked art,” he stated. “The opportunity to create a piece of art that’s permanently installed at a museum is one you don’t want to pass up.”