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Interior Design: Making a Difference

January 24, 2012

Drexel Interior Design students will be working with Mantua’s Morton McMichael School on a new playground design project, thanks to a Community Research Grant awarded to Interior Design Professor Debra Ruben. The grant will support a two-part participatory design seminar led by Ruben in which students will work on a “place-making” project in the existing schoolyard to create a new community vision for McMichael’s playground. Our students will engage with McMichael’s students, teachers and community members to develop a preliminary design. 

Ruben’s course, Community Seminar I, will conduct research including data gathering, behavior-setting analyses, interviews, documentation of site conditions and code investigations. Through team meetings and design charrettes with school children and the community, the second course, INTR 465 Community DesignPart II, will focus on the creation of a concept, design schematics and design development with the outcome being a preliminary design for the playground. 

The grant also supports collaborative work with Drexel Psychology Professor Ludo Scheffer, who will assist with evidence-based research that will become part of a study identifying key issues and usage indicators for playgrounds and recess, as well as Engineering Professor Franco Montalto and Engineering graduate students, who will provide input for a water management plan. 

Ruben was instrumental in a similar project for West Philadelphia’s Rudolph Blankenburg School that saw construction completed in November of 2010. Over the course of three classes and two and a half years, Professor Ruben and her Interior Design students developed plans for more than 80,000 square feet of outdoor space that was transformed into a multi-use play space for school children. For more information please contact Debra Ruben at

Diana Nicholas, Interiors Professor, was also awarded a Community Research Grant for her winter term course INTR 799: Mantua Community Design-Build. Nicholas, along with Architecure Professor Andrew Cronin, are teaching the interdisciplinary design-build course in which students will engage in a community design process and see the designs realized through a group design/build practice for the exterior spaces at the Presbyterian Assisted Living Facility in Mantua.
Click here for more information about the course.