Photo courtesy of Reshma Anna Roy

Students plan good ideas for accessibility at the RAC

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By Noushin Ziafati

The Interior Design & Engineering Affiliation (I.D.E.A.) competition kicked off its first year, aiming to bring interior design and engineering students together to solve real-world problems.

About 70 Ryerson students gathered on Sept. 19 in a competition to create a revamped design for the Recreation and Athletics Centre (RAC). Their goal was to improve accessibility in the fitness centre by creating a feasible, cost-effective solution.

“I hope to see that interior design students and engineering students can work together really nicely because these students are going to be working together in the field. That’s the main idea of the competition, to mimic the field,” said Sidrah Noor, a third-year biomedical engineering student, the chair of I.D.E.A. and president of Cranial Nerves, a student-led engineering group at Ryerson.

Before the event, the building that students would be working on was kept secret. Students were only told that this year’s theme is accessibility.

Teams of three to six students were formed, with an aim to have a minimum of one interior design or architecture student per team to tackle the design problem.

An hour prior to starting the designs, the RAC was revealed as the building that needed to be redesigned. The students were given a tour of the building and took pictures for reference. They were then given six hours to create a design plan and then present their idea to a panel of six judges, which included interior design, business and engineering professionals, along with Anthony Seymour, the manager of recreation at the RAC.

“It was very fast-paced,” second-year civil engineering student Maulik Vora said. “We learned so many time-management skills. It was like a five-day project in one day, in a few hours.”

Models, sketches and computer-aided design drawings were used to present designs that would provide accessible entrances, exits, ramps and an emergency exit strategy in the RAC for students with disabilities.

“Just in general, society is changing. We have to realize that [there are] different levels of accessibility, different levels of need,” Seymour said. “I think that some of the groups made some very good points on signage and colouring and tactile services.”

The groups with the top three design solutions won cash prizes of $1,000, $750 and $500.

The first-place team had a unique spiral ramp design, a repurposed wall for rock-climbing and LED strips and guides for the visually impaired, which set them apart from others.

“We just added onto existing structures and moved them onwards. Anything that got cut off or blocked off, we just changed them into something that would still work,” said third-year aerospace engineering student Anoop Dhillon. “We tried to keep the building [similar to what] it is already and keep the flow of things working and still maintain the proper accessibility aspect of it.”

I.D.E.A. was hosted by Cranial Nerves in collaboration with the Ryerson Communication and Design Society, the Engineering Student Society and the Centre of Engineering Innovation and Entrepreneurship.

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