NDSU students, alumna exchange interior design ideas in China
Published May 22, 2012
Krystal Falcon’s postgraduation plans didn’t initially include moving to China. But a six-week stint traveling halfway around the world changed the recent NDSU graduate’s potential career path.
Falcon, a Williston, N.D., native, and fellow interior design graduate RachealAnn Tretter of East Grand Forks, N.D., spent six weeks interning at an interior design and construction firm in Shanghai, China, during the spring 2012 semester. Falcon said the trip helped prepare her to compete successfully in a global environment. In fact, she plans on moving to and working in China in 2013. “I realize that the world is completely open,” Falcon said. “The experience changed my view on what’s possible.”
The students and Susan Ray-Degges, the NDSU interior design program coordinator who arranged the trip, used the experience to exchange ideas, explore Chinese history and immerse themselves in Chinese culture and business.
The trip came together thanks to a connection with NDSU alumna Sandy Strand, BS ’77, who has spent the past 10 years in China doing corporate interior design. Her company, Strand and Associates, is housed within Shanghai-based CJ2 Design Associates. Strand said the CJ2 owners expressed interest in introducing Chinese workers to U.S. students and exchanging ideas.
Strand has served as a member of the College of Human Development and Education’s Board of Visitors. “We tried to expose the students to everything that we are working on, including competitions, construction sites and our everyday work,” she said.
The students worked side-by-side with Chinese renderers, drafters, engineers and construction managers. Tretter and Falcon developed plans for a retail project and an award-winning design for Mary Kay Inc. Falcon worked on a canteen design for Roche Pharmaceuticals and both developed their senior thesis project, which included a multi-floor space for corporate offices and hospitality space.
Falcon said one of the trip’s highlights was meeting Marshall Strabala, a U.S. architect involved in the Shanghai Tower, an under-construction skyscraper that will be the world’s second-tallest building upon completion in 2014. It will rise more than 2,000 feet and have 128 stories. The students had lunch with Strabala and learned about his design philosophy, Falcon said.
Tretter and Falcon visited markets, showrooms, office buildings and a financial office that was under construction. In addition to taking in traditional Chinese architecture and the influences of British and French design, the students spent a weekend visiting notable Beijing landmarks, such as the Great Wall, Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City.
Both students noted the Chinese used grander designs because of lower labor costs. “It really opened our minds to what could be done,” Tretter said. “They did things we might not have considered here because of the cost.”
Ray-Degges spent the first two weeks with the students in China. During that time the trio exchanged presentations with CJ2 staff on universal design, Shaker furniture, retail design, Chinese history and interior design highlights in each country over the past 100 years. “It’s important for them to understand that interior design is global,” Ray-Degges said. “It’s a global marketplace. It’s important to understand that we’re all intertwined.”