Live@ICFF Schools: Parsons

If you needed proof that the rudiments of punning are a crucial part of any design student’s curriculum, look no further than the booth for Parsons’s School of Constructed Environments, where the theme is Flow. On one table, there’s Currentcy, a glove by Kim White that employs radio-frequency identification (the same technology used to track cattle herds) to allow, say, joggers to buy a bottle of VitaminWater with the swipe of a finger instead of a credit card. Next to it is Chelsea Briganti’s Mademoicell, a kit that allows women to collect and store stem cells from their menstrual blood. (One passerby visibly blanched upon hearing what the petal-like silicone forms, one of which contained a dark-red liquid, were meant to hold.) And then there’s the Nücs, didactic bathroom toys by Rob Spalding that teach three- to six-year-olds about the flexibility of family structure and straightforwardly demonstrate that the sexes pees differently.

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Robert Kirkbride, a professor in the School of Constructed Environments and the director of the B.F.A. program, wanted students’ work to provoke even as it addressed social issues like childhood nutrition (Smash Mash, fresh fruit packaged in a pinchable pouch for a DIY smoothie) or our relationship with nature (a tiny Parsons table being eaten by termites). “If it’s moralistic or ethically charged but aesthetically challenged, it can be a disservice to sustainability,” Kirkbride says. “People have to want them, desire them. It’s overlooked in the discussion of sustainability.”

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Other, quieter projects—notably Chika Nakayama’s lovely humming OTO water pitcher, Hyeonil Jeong’s semicollabsible Caterpillar seat (top and below), and Toshi Fukaya’s magically (OK, magnetically) levitating stool—were content to dip their toes in the aesthetic stream and just go with the flow.

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