Yorkville University’s Lisa Jeans was recently announced the 2022 winner of the Association of Registered Interior Designers of Ontario (ARIDO)’s prestigious Norma Ruth Ridley Scholarship.
Valued at $2,000, the award honors interior design students who “display impeccable professionalism and ethics and who understand the importance of good business practices and professional standards.”
Applicants – each of whom must hail from one of ARIDO’s 10 recognized schools and be handpicked by their program chairs to compete – are judged in five areas: academic achievement, professionalism, community involvement, character, communication, and demonstration of design proficiency in the student’s response to a design scenario and related questions.
“To be honest, I truly cannot believe that my project was selected,” Jeans, a fourth-year Bachelor of Interior Designstudent, said of the award, which was presented to her during the ARIDO AGM on March 31.
“I was so excited. The BID program has been excellent for me, so it was great to be able to share this good news and to celebrate with my professors. My development as a design student has been a result of learning from my teachers here.”
This year’s ARIDO scholarship competition saw Jeans and her fellow entrants tasked with designing a “purpose-built” university mental health and wellness centre.
“The scenario was all about creating this post-COVID space during a time when university students are feeling a lot of stress, anxiety, and a lack of connection,” Jeans said.
“So, the idea behind the scenario is that there’s all these program requirements that need to be in place, and we had to fit them all into the space – which was not simple. For me, I started thinking about how the university experience is all about growth and how you need safety to grow.”
In the end, Jeans decided to design her proposed facility (which she named ‘Spiritus’, from the Latin word meaning breath) with a Community + Cocoon concept – “balancing the need for privacy, safety, and softness, with the need for human connections and community, touching the individual and collective spirit.”
The ground level of Spiritus, which Jeans classified as a ‘community’ level, includes a reception desk, a central lounge featuring a suspended, sculptural fireplace and seating, a self-serve café with beverages and snacks, and a library of self-help books, and a multi-purpose room that opens out to a backyard deck.
The second floor is a “cocoon” level devoted to counselling, with a “touchdown space,” waiting area, and six private rooms, each outfitted with cushions, weighted blankets, fidgets, and other useful props for counselling and stress mitigation. This level also features a staff lounge with a private outdoor deck.
A hybrid “community + cocoon” level, the third floor of Spiritus is all about safe spaces for groups to gather, featuring larger group counselling spaces, with a walkout meditation garden, offering “an oasis where students may sit on a bench and enjoy the sound of birds and plants rustling in the breeze.”
Finally, the public area of the basement level forms a “communal cocoon,” whose main feature is a Multifaith Reflection Room that is organized in a circular configuration, “with gauzy layers of drapery creating thresholds to the centre heart of the cocoon.”
“I found myself really inspired by these circular forms, taking inspiration from the form of Indigenous gathering spaces that take the shape of a circle, so I tried to work that into a cocoon feeling of inclusivity,” Jeans said of her design for the basement level, which also features an administrative staff zone.
Jeans said she is especially grateful to Yorkville University professor Dr. Maryam Karimi for offering “wonderful guidance, critique, encouragement, and inspiration” as her mentor through the five-week project process involved with the Norma Ruth Ridley scholarship competition.
“As a student, you go into this as a beginner, so you need to bounce those ideas off of somebody and have them question you,” she said, noting that Karimi has been that person for her – first as her faculty advisor, then as her scholarship mentor.
“Her mentorship only helped further the work and make it better.”
Moving forward, Jeans, who has a Master’s degree in Library Science, said her post-graduation career aspirations include working at a larger interior design firm with a research unit.
“I’m super interested in environmental psychology, and coupled with my Library Science background, I feel like I have something of value to offer,” she said, listing firms like HOK and Gensler as her “ideal” future employers.
“Wherever I land, I just want to learn more. I’m leaning towards public and commercial projects, because experience design for larger groups of people is what excites me most.”