Fall Quarter was the busiest of my college career. I guess that’s college for you. Despite the stress, I feel that I gained more knowledge and skill than in my previous two years.
The final project in studio involved developing a human “Shest”. Shest refers to the combination of the words shell and nest. This was used because of the uses of each: shells are designed to be carried with the user, while nests are left behind and returned to periodically.
Various sketch models were explored surrounding this idea, and eventually we had a full description of the problem, which is: In the states of Washington and California, farm owners are required to provide shade, seating, and water to their workers for use during their periodic breaks. The current solutions for this are ugly and inefficient or not designed specifically with this intent, or are rather makeshift in nature. Thus we were tasked with choosing a specific farm to tailor our design towards and develop a better solution.
I chose a vineyard on the Eastern end of the Walla Walla Valley called Abeja,* which means bee in Spanish. I was drawn to the small family feel of the vineyard, as well as the fact that the vineyard boasts an inn on site which will come into play later.
Much of the learning for me also involved the use of metaphor as a design strategy. Some of the metaphors I considered included leaves, the physical structure of the honeycomb, the way the honeycomb hangs in a natural hive, the stereotypical shape of a beehive, bee boxes, the stacks of crates typical of a vineyard at harvest time, and trees.
Below is an assortment of sketches I did as part of my ideation process.
The sketches above include a large variety of basic ideas that I explored to varying degrees, the majority of which were scrapped for various reasons. I ended up following the trail of the honeycomb metaphor because of the versatility of the shapes that make it up and because of the deeper meanings within it, such as the way that the bees store honey in the honeycomb for varying amounts of time and take nourishment from it, the way that they grow their young in that same honeycomb, and the social connotations of bees as hard workers but among the highest in rank of the flying insects.
Below are sketches that I did as I continued to pursue this direction.
Through my research into the subject, I discovered a TED talk by a woman who began her career as a migrant worker in a vineyard in the Napa Valley of California. At the time of the talk, she had raised to become the owner of at least one vineyard. Most of the labor in vineyards in the United States is done by migrant workers, but the percentage of those who go on to become the owners or CEO’s of the same or similar agricultural institutions is very low. I believe that more contact between those buying and enjoying the wine coming from a vineyard and those tending the vines could facilitate more movement of laborers from the lowest ranks of work up to the highest. So I built into my “Shest” the idea of a shared space between laborers and visitors.
I built a paperboard sketch model based on the sketches above and made modifications to that to continue bettering the design. When I had completed that, I began work on a model at 1.5″ to 1′ scale in 3/8″ plywood.
Hollow extruded hexagons with cushions inside become cubby-like seating that allows for great relaxation. The three extrusions are placed with one end together and fanning out at the other. A contrasting colored surface is placed between them to create a continuous bar that is perfect for use while perching on stools.
The space under the bar between the hexagonal extrusions becomes a storage space for longer term storage of tools or cooled storage of wine. The triangular stools fold up and store neatly in one end of one of the extruded hexagons.
Workers in a vineyard may also benefit from access to temporary storage for personal items while they are working, so one wall of the roof support is covered in a layer of large leather hexagons. These hexagons can fold up to become triangular pockets for temporary storage. The wall behind these hexagons is a chalkboard material, making it easy to mark the location of your personal items. The second benefit of this hexagon-pocket wall is the opportunity for the winery to host a tasting during a wine release. All the pockets could be folded up and filled with bottles of wine, with the varieties of each marked on the chalkboard beneath.
A large metal-mix shade provides relief from the summer sun, and a tank within the shade’s support structure holds water to quench the thirst of any visitor to it.
I named it “Colmena”, “beehive” in Spanish. The name is a description of the nature of the place, with a nod to the Spanish name of the vineyard it is designed for. I enjoyed injecting the metaphor of the beehive and the honeycomb throughout the final solution.
*Abeja winery did not sponsor or have any part in the creation of this design or publication of this blog post.