Noguchi and Pratt

Noguchi + Pratt 2021

June 25, 2021 – August 29, 2021

Each spring, the MFA Graduate Foundations Design Studio course at Pratt Institute, Interior Design, asks students to draw inspiration from Isamu Noguchi’s work.

This year, there were many firsts—beyond those in response to the COVID-19 pandemic—in the ways this project manifested. For the first time the students embarked on a two phase project: Noguchi Behind The Scene, which consisted of a Display Design Charrette which focused on client’s brief stipulating display components, fixtures, lighting, sustainable materials, surfaces and finishes to promote the sales of Akari Light Sculptures. The results then informed a Showroom and Cafe Design which focused on additional and flexibly programmed spaces for the behind the scene support of retail which included a cafe, event seating, storage, office/meeting space, and restrooms, also with an emphasis in lighting, materials, surfaces, and finishes. These associated programs are adjacently located in Isamu Noguchi’s 10th Street studio, across the street from the Noguchi Museum in Long Island City, Queens, and parallel the Museum’s current design expansion explorations which celebrate the Akari Light Sculptures. The students had the unprecedented opportunity to work closely with Museum Director Brett Littman and Facilities Director George Juergens (a Pratt graduate), who participated in milestone reviews on both phases and who selected two winners and two finalists.

We ask as students, as educators, and as practitioners: How can design foster a dialogue between the acts of making, supporting, and commodifying?

Zhaoxi Dong, Nathalie Elzayn, Miranda Fallon, Rose Gorski, Tianli Gu, Hanhui Guan, Leilei Guo, Wu Hao, Huahua Huang, Yongjia Huang, Ann Hung, Joette Jones, Parabjot Kaur, Eunice (Yurim) Lee, Xinyue (Bonnie) Li, Wenjing Liu, Veronica London, Lauren Park, Kaelin Probeck, Claudia Oertli, Gloria Refrigeri, Polina Shchukina, Christy Thai, Polina Ustinova, Qinghua Wang, Boyan Wu, Junger Xia, Lily Xuan, Shannon Yao, Michelle Yoo, Yiwen Zhang, Shiyue Zhang, Junjiao Zhao

Gregory Bugel, Sheryl Kasak, Tetsu Ohara, Suzanne Song

Selected Projects

First Prize

Claudia Oertli: The Breathing Akari, 2021
Claudia Oertli: The Breathing Akari

Claudia Oertli: The Breathing Akari

The focus of this proposal is to create a space which is consistent with Isamu Noguchi’s aesthetic and references his work through materiality and form. Additionally, this design proposal aims to create place and program in a way which maximizes use of the space with minimal additive structural elements. By considering and drawing inspirations from existing conditions, an interior space is created which feels cohesive with the existing environment. The movable and flexible display system which creates the interior environment references aesthetics, design language, and designed interior systems seen in Noguchi’s works. Using bamboo and creating a modular system, a suspended bamboo “forest” will be illuminated by the Akari lights which it displays. This modular display system is a celebration of the Akari; displaying the sculptures in a way which references their natural materials and organic forms. The mechanics behind this design allow the configuration to take nearly any form, for maximum potential in flexibility and adaptation or reconfiguration.

Faculty: Tetsu Ohara

Second Prize

Hanhui Guan: The Garden Of Akari
Hanhui Guan: The Garden of Akari

Hanhui Guan: The Garden of Akari

The Garden of Akari is the Akari retail space I proposed. Inspired by Noguchi’s garden projects, the retail environment not only adapts the form of Zen gardens which profoundly influenced Noguchi’s garden design, but also refers to Noguchi’s idea of ‘forming a relationship to the people walking around and looking at’ the gardens. The Akari lamp store I propose aims at creating an extensional experience of the Noguchi Museum, promoting the interaction between the Akari lamps and visitors, and creating a flexible retail environment that could adapt to changing circumstances. The Akari retail space provides comprehensive retail services. It integrates the Akari retail space with educational areas that both sells and exhibits related books, and a cafe that provides an immersive experience of Noguchi’s aesthetics. In this case, it creates an enjoyable retail experience for a customer to select a unique object that reminds them of the memory of the Noguchi Museum tour.

Faculty: Tetsu Ohara


Joette Jones: Lateral Elevations

As part of The Noguchi Museum’s campus expansion, admirers will gain access to Noguchi’s studio and pied-à-terre, adjacent to the existing museum in Long Island City. This space will become the new home of the growing Akari Light Sculpture retail business, as well as a new multi-use space for exhibitions, events, and community engagement.

Derived from extended banding of the Akari 16A, Lateral Elevations proposes a transitional and flexible modular retail space. Upon entering the showroom the cubic language of the walls provides a dynamic continuity; selected cubes extend laterally framing the Akari on display. This versatility allows for the studio to be easily and continuously reconfigured, creating new spatial possibilities for the Akari to perform in a myriad of layouts without distraction. This theme of reconfiguration expands into the café and garden spaces, both functioning as multi-use spaces within the influence of the cubic grid.

Faculty: Sheryl Kasak

Polina Ustinova: Home for Akari

Home for Akari is a system of volumetric shells that host individual light sculptures acting as an independent living unit for each lamp. The shape of the shells was inspired by Noguchi’s sculpture Water Table, where subtractive geometry exaggerates the negative spaces through the absence of edge. The leading conceptual driver of the design was the desire to highlight the glowing nature of Akari and emphasize how they transform the atmosphere around them. The display system hybridizes real and digital exhibition strategies to maximize the number of displayed items and enrich the visitor’s experience inside the museum and beyond its physical location. The universal design of the display system allows the showroom area to be flexible and accommodate various events that will take place in a renovated studio.

Faculty: Sheryl Kasak

All Projects

  • Nathalie Elzayn
  • Miranda Fallon
  • Wu Hao
  • Joette Jones
  • Junger Xia
  • Parabjot Kaur
  • Eunice (Yurim) Lee
  • Kaelin Probeck
  • Gloria Refrigeri
  • Polina Shchukina
  • Polina Ustinova
  • Michelle Yoo
  • Rose Gorski
  • Hanhui Guan
  • Yongjia Huang
  • Ann Hung
  • Leilei Guo
  • Claudia Oertli
  • Christy Thai
  • Boyan Wu
  • Xinyue (Bonnie) Li
  • Tianli Gu
  • Lily Xuan
  • Veronica London
  • Yiwen Zhang
  • Shiyue Zhang
  • Junjiao Zhao
  • Zhaoxi Dong
  • Huahua Huang
  • Lauren Park
  • Qinghua Wang
  • Shannon Yao
  • Wenjing Liu

Exhibitions at The Noguchi Museum are supported, in part, by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, in partnership with the City Council and from the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo and the New York State Legislature.