Design School competition yields vibrant, new design for Mesa youth museum

"Interactome," a team of architecture, landscape architecture, visual communication and industrial design students from The Design School in the ASU Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts won the 2013 Cluster Project competition with a redesign of the exterior of the Arizona Museum for Children that gives the otherwise nondescript former Basha’s grocery store the wow factor museum board members and staff wanted.

“'Wow,' 'spectacular' and 'amazing' are just a few of the words to describe the incredible range of ideas and inspiring creativity displayed by these students,” said Sunnee O’Rork, executive director of the Arizona Museum for Youth, which is changing its name to i.d.e.a. in keeping with its new image and more focused mission. “As we viewed the videos they submitted, we were overwhelmed, inspired and completely engaged in their thinking. There are so many ideas that we’d love to incorporate into the new museum but the winning team’s work really stood out for us.”

Spencer Bates, a junior architectural studies student from Gilbert, Ariz. and a member of the winning team said that the group focused on giving the building’s exterior excitement, interactivity and identity. The design incorporates a large xylophone along the west wall that gives visitors a hands-on activity that immediately sets the tone for what they will discover inside.

The team also included a water wall with moveable letters to “see, touch and listen” and a special children’s entrance tunnel of motion triggered lights. A series of brightly colored curving metal strips designed to suggest brush strokes serve as an exterior signature design element that wraps the outside walls and practically provides shade and directs visitors to the entrance. The team’s plan also includes an LED sign to publicize events and an interactive projection on the lobby wall with touch-sensitive illuminating wall tiles.

Other members of the team include Kevin Klassman, landscape architecture, Libertyville, Ill.; Krizia Alba, visual communication design, Phoenix, Ariz.; Felipe Mancero, architectural studies, Quito, Ecuador and Anna Kawski, industrial design, Phoenix, Ariz.

Bates said a benefit of the competition, developed to foster collaboration among the five design disciplines, was his deepened understanding of the other design areas and how together they enriched the project. “I have friends in other fields now who I can turn to help me in my future projects and it’s also a glimpse of what I might like to create in the future in terms of my own firm with other designers.”

Craig Barton, director of The Design School and one of the five judges hearing the finalists’ presentations, said that each of the 35 projects received a vote in the initial round of voting that narrowed the finalists to seven.

“This is the type of project which helps design students and prospective clients really understand the importance of working across disciplinary boundaries,” Barton said. “Collectively the projects displayed The Design School's ability to engage students in the kinds of cross-disciplinary design inquiry and practice which will define their respective careers."

Read more about the 2013 Junior Cluster Project here. For more information about The Design School, visit and for more information about the Arizona Museum for Youth visit To see the videos each team prepared visit this Vimeo site.