For two weeks in October, fourth-year architecture students marched to the beat of a different drum. Instead of the normal assignment, which involved designing a building, each student was asked to conceptualize and build a percussion instrument.
The project was part of an annual design competition sponsored by Minneapolis/St. Paul firm KKE. The purpose of the competition was to challenge students with a problem that pushes the concept of architectural design into realms not encountered in everyday activities.
Architects are called on to solve many problems that seem foreign to them but are approachable using the design process, said architecture professor Don Faulkner. The competition incorporates the act of building. Architecture is never devoid of the real world, and the act of constructing is important.
Students were given two weeks to design and construct their instrument. Using architecture and architectural tectonics design, students were to create a percussion instrument beautiful in sound, look and feel. It had to produce multiple tones and be able to be played by visitors.
The resulting instruments ranged from creative interpretations of existing percussion pieces, to completely original intricate instruments. The materials used were just as vast, including wood, glass, concrete, copper pipe, wire, plastic bottles, glass jars, rope and rubber tubing.
Several faculty members in the Department of Architecture and Landscape Architecture judged the instruments. They looked at creativity, graphic presentation and the craft of the object. The more than 50 projects were reduced to 10 finalists.
Later, a team from KKE picked two winners, Zach Mathern and Louis Sirota. Both students received a $1,000 cash award and an opportunity to intern at KKE. Three other students, Sam Kalscheur, Stephanie Franzen and Lane Kleist, were given honorable mentions.