Visiting Associate Professor Sarah Strauss has been named the first-place winner of the 2018 Council for Interior Design Accreditation (CIDA) Award for Excellence for her exceptional interior design teaching at Pratt. CIDA’s annual award honors educators like Strauss who are advancing interior design education through their innovative teaching practices. The first-place award specifically recognizes Strauss for her spring 2018 studio course that engaged students with feminism and music to envision spaces for bodies usually overlooked by mainstream design.

In a video on Strauss’s Graduate Options Studio, interior design students discuss valuable takeaways from their work and collaboration as they worked through three goals. First they made a feminist zine through which they collectively shared their experiences living as female around the world in places that ranged from Thailand to China to New Jersey. Then they reinvented a familiar musical instrument: the drum set. It’s usually oriented around the adult male body, but the students developed new drum set designs intended for anyone, at any age, with any body, to play. Each student created a full-scale, working piece of their drum set, so together the class built a new kit. These projects culminated with a design proposal for a local Brooklyn building—the shuttered former Bellrose Ballroom—reimagining it as a headquarters and performance venue for Tom Tom Magazine, a publication dedicated to female and gender non-conforming drummers. Student research included attending performances by female and non-binary musicians around New York City. Each stage of this studio course considered interior design’s potential to build spaces that empower women.

Strauss previously received the 2012 CIDA Innovative Interior Design Education Award, and the 2015 CIDA Award for Excellence for her senior elective interior design studio at Pratt. That class examined the use of sound and tactility as design elements, with students experimenting with new technology such as conductive surfaces and 3D printing to make interior design interactive.