Shift: Words in the work

When considered individually, the exhibits on display in the Edge Studio?s newest gallery ?? from ?Familiar? to ?Appeal? to ?Perception,? to the more exotically titled ?Vivace? and ?Jyoti? (words of Italian and Sanskrit origins, respectively) ? have little relation to each other. When observed as a whole, however, these works embody the paradox of modern public architecture and design, this juggling act between the desire to be accommodating and acceptable while also breathing imagination and sophistication.

Exclusively comprising recent projects by 13 Carnegie Mellon students, Shift: A Word about the Work is a chronicle of the interdisciplinary work that has recently emerged between the architecture and design departments. The gallery, organized by CMU in conjunction with the award-winning design team Edge Studio and non-profit arts group The Sprout Fund, is the latest addition to Penn Avenue?s ?Unblurred? series. Opening this past week, Shift joins the other art programs that are running on this historic street, and will continue until September 17.

The event, spearheaded by CMU professors and Edge Studio members Gary Carlough and David Burn, hopes to ?provide an ongoing street dialogue within the Pittsburgh design community,? according to flyers circulated by the studio at the exhibition?s opening.

?The philosophy of the exhibit is to bring awareness to how students treat the visual world, and how they challenge what?s already out there,? senior design student Cynthia Maletz said.

The presentations on display range from public structures, as seen in the works of junior Read Langworthy and sophomore Yoonsun Yang, both architecture majors, to more abstract art by senior architecture major Samantha Triolo and others. However, perhaps the most interesting exhibits involve ?everyday objects,? as Maletz terms it her designs of kitchen knives and school bags. Other ?everyday objects? in the exhibition range from fifth-year design senior Matt Meurer?s designs of digital cameras and fitness equipment to sophomore architect Gabriel Cuellar?s portable bench.

?We should be ... trying to move away from visual orientation and moving toward stimulation of all the senses. Architecture as visual communication can only be skin deep; it?s about the body as a whole,? Cuellar said.

In fact, the gallery?s stark confrontation of the balance between mainstream appeal and artistic integrity generates a variety of opinions on how this can be approached and achieved.

While Maletz argues that her designs must ?work primarily for those who are going to be using them,? Cuellar believes solely in the value of personal motivation.

?My perception of what the public perceives as visually stimulating is not important. The process for developing an idea is not in a vacuum, of course, but trying to balance my work to be visually oriented is not something I give much attention to. I believe any thoughtful architect can create sensually oriented work,? Cuellar insists.

Interestingly though, while the artwork and ambitions of these artists are certainly captivating enough, the true memory of this experience ultimately lies in its presentation. If there is anything that makes the Shift exhibition significant, it is its openness, the surprising ease with which one can casually stroll in and begin observing. The studio gallery, looking like a cleaned-up, fluorescent-lit mechanic?s garage with its door wide open for service, provides its audience a rare and candid opportunity to connect ? some with their students, some with their peers, some with their craft, and all with their community.

Editor?s Note: Matt Meurer is a former member of The Tartan?s photo staff.