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The Toronto Sun CareerConnection

Students design condo for sale

By Dorothea Helms
Special to the Toronto Sun

This fall, 43 second-year students in Humber Institute of Technology and Advanced Learning's Interior Design program were offered a rare opportunity to design a condominium suite as much more than a school assignment.
The first-place renderings

In a unique educational collaboration between Brandy Lane Homes and Humber, the students were challenged to design "The Humber" -- a new 1,460-sq.-ft. (with a 196-sq.-ft. terrace) two-storey penthouse for the company's Loggia condominium community at The Queensway and Islington Avenue.

The object of the exercise was that the winning design would be vetted for code compliance by Loggia architect Stone McQuire Vogt, tweaked for marketability and then offered for sale in the recently opened Phase 2.

"We couldn't believe we won," says first-place team member Mei Cheng. "Someone is actually going to live in our design."

"We went through an incredible learning link to accomplish this," says Ariel Maharaj, who was also on the winning team. "We didn't want to make any mistakes."

Teammate Hyewon Park agrees. "We had to think about everything. If it's just a school project and you make a mistake, you lose marks -- but in real life, it could have serious consequences. We made a special effort."

The effort was lucrative for Maharaj, Park, Cheng and their fourth teammate Susann Cho -- they took home a team prize of $1,000. As an added incentive, Canadian Interiors presented one-year subscriptions to all three finalist team members. In addition, first-place team members will each receive a one-year subscription to Azure magazine.
Taking home first place were (L-R) Susann Cho, Ariel Maharaj, Mei Cheng and Hyewon Park of Team #1

This unusual assignment required students to visualize a space in three dimensions. For their presentation, they had to develop two different floorplan layouts for the suite (one open concept, one traditional), plus a vignette board with a perspective of the space that included a "legacy" piece of furniture for which they drew randomly.

On Oct. 7, the five semi-finalist teams made their presentations to the judging panel: Brandy Lane president David Hirsh; Dan Cowling of Stone McQuire Vogt Architects (Loggia's project architect); Mike Niven, president of Mike Niven Interior Design Inc.; Vanessa J. Vilic, a Humber alumnus and guest teaching assistant, Interior Design Collaborative Inc.; Kelly Rude of Canadian Interiors magazine; and Donna Jean MacKinnon, Best-laid Plans columnist.

"We were so nervous going in for our presentation, and we were third in line, so we had to wait," says Cho, "but the judges made us feel comfortable. We're so grateful to have had this experience."

The assignment, which represented 30% of the students' term grade, was offered just as school resumed in the fall. The timeline was tight, and according to Natalie Hernandez, who was on the team that took second place ($500), "My teammates Svetlana Sverdlina and Seon Hee (Sunny) Park lived at my home for a couple weeks. This project was tough, because we had a real client, but it was also fun."
Brandy Lane President David Hirsh (centre) with the 18 short list team members

The members of all three winning teams say that they worked well together, and figured out quickly how to capitalize on each other's strengths while making sure everyone had a say in each aspect of the design process. "We had done projects together before," Sverdlina says, "so we knew we could make it work. It was exciting to come in second."

It's a similar story from the third-place team comprised of Lauren Auciello, Lauren Sattler, Tracy Ho and Hannah Buder. "We never took ourselves too seriously," says Lauren Auciello. "It was stressful, but we kept it upbeat, and we had an excellent sharing of ideas. We had to think about much more than what we personally liked -- this condo suite had to be marketable."

"We went into this with a positive attitude and we have a similar work ethic," Buder adds. "We're happy with the way it turned out." Third place earned them a $250 prize.

Hirsh says Brandy Lane is delighted with the results. "Thinking outside the box is intrinsic to our philosophy. Our on-going goal is to create designs that people want, and continually strive to push the traditional design envelope. We congratulate all the students who rose to this challenge, and we are happy to encourage the next generation of Canadian design professionals who will graduate from Humber."

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