By Alex Gladden
This past summer was a whirlwind for Jessica Baker, a Fay Jones School student who won the Angelo Donghia Foundation 2016 Senior Student Scholarship Award.
Baker, now a fourth-year interior design student, and a fellow interior design student, Christine Wass, were among 15 students to recently receive this scholarship award.
Baker completed a design internship this summer with Edge of Architecture, Inc. in Coral Gables, Florida, with a concentration in hospitality, interior, and architectural design. She’d just begun that internship when she learned that she’d won the award, and she continued to work on her competition project there in a space the firm provided her. Baker said they were all excited for her when she received the award.
She created her project in a design studio with Jennifer Webb, an associate professor in the interior design department, this spring. Webb directed all of her students to design boutique hotels in different cities, and Baker designed her hotel for Cleveland, Ohio.
Baker’s entry, the Adagio Hotel, was inspired by Cleveland’s arts institutions. She was particularly inspired by the Cleveland Orchestra and designed the Adagio as a visual storyteller, the composition of melodies produced by families of a symphony.
Baker said she decided to market her hotel to draw in people who would go to the theater or a concert hall. Baker designed her hotel so that as guests travel through her hotel they also travel through the different musical families. She decorated the ceiling of her lobby with fiber-optic bows that decrease and increase in height and can display light in different colors and intensities.
Brass instruments inspired the decorations in the guest rooms, while Baker represented a combination of different instruments in the restaurant and bar area of her restaurant.
Baker describes the concept: “A song unfolds as a visitor circulates throughout the hotel, opening with the strings, and leading up the grand staircase to the reception desk, where it is joined by woodwinds and brass. The concept is implemented through material detailing, from metal inlays inspired by brass instruments, lacquered surfaces inspired by strings, to the wrapping of joined materials inspired by reed instruments.
“These details provide a richness to the hotel that reinforces the timelessness of music. The linear axis running north and south through the design serves as a staff or foundation upon which the notes follow. The space planning for the lobby and restaurant follow this linear pattern, even as seating arrangements vary from duets to octets. Over the staff, a fiber optic bow installation captures the movement of music. This concept continues throughout the remaining 15 floors, creating an environment for the guests equivalent to an adagio, or a tempo that it restful and at ease.”
Jim Looney and Jenny Tredway of Looney and Associates, a hospitality design firm with offices in Dallas, Chicago, and Honolulu, provided the students in the class with a basic model of a hotel they had designed. It was more like a real-life situation, Baker said. When interior designers work with clients, they often are given a basic layout they have to work with.
“You’re given this hotel, and you can only change so much about the architecture,” Baker said.
Baker said Looney and Tredway gave the students insight that allowed them to further develop their projects.
“They were excited to see their project worked on by other people,” Baker said.
As professionals, Looney and Tredway were able to explain the elements that make good hotels, Baker said. Webb also was extremely helpful as she continued to develop her project. Their collective mentoring helped her receive the Donghia award, she said.
Baker is optimistic that winning the competition will help her get a job.
“A lot of the judges were important people in the design world,” Baker said.
It will also help her financially because the award comes with $30,000. She will be able to begin paying off student loans and will not have to work while she still in school.
“The scholarship has opened many doors for my education and has relieved financial burdens. I can live a more balanced lifestyle,” Baker said.
Following the fall semester, Baker will continue her design education abroad in Europe. She has never traveled internationally before and hopes that the exposure to other cultures will help her become a better designer.
“I am grateful for the Donghia scholarship foundation’s generosity,” she said. “I’m going to get to do so many things that I wasn’t able to do before.”