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In National Competition, Student Wins $5,000 Scholarship

Already a student in the nation’s No. 1 interior design program at UC, Kyle Barker was also the No. 1 winner in a recent national design competition.

Date: 2/19/2007
By: M.B. Reilly
Phone: (513) 556-1824
Photos By: Andrew Higley
UC ingot University of Cincinnati interior design junior Kyle Barker, 21, of Mt. Airy, is building a nationally recognized portfolio thanks to a competitive scholarship worth $5,000 that he just won.

Kyle Barker

Along with that scholarship from Gensler (the world’s leading interior design firm), Kyle - a student in UC's nationally No. 1-ranked interior design program -  will also be published in the February issue of Contract magazine, an architecture and design industry publication.

This is all thanks to contest open to U.S. architecture and interior design students sponsored by Gensler. Kyle explained, “Previously, the Gensler competition had only been open to students in the New York City area, but this year, it was opened up to the whole country. In late spring of 2006, we found out that UC could select two students to enter.”

At that time, Kyle was actually on a co-op quarter working for leading retail design firm Chute Gerdeman in Chicago. But between the end of that co-op work quarter and leaving for a study-abroad opportunity in Copenhagen, Denmark, he worked “non-stop for three weeks” to polish an existing classroom project – readying it as a presentation – as his entry for the Gensler prize.

The resulting design project was one sited in an existing interior design firm (formerly a bank) in the local community of Oakley. Kyle designed greater sustainable use of the space by formulating a plan wherein it could serve as an art gallery by day and then be transformed into a dance club at night – even while still protecting the art work.

Kyle Barker

“It’s a very planned, calculated and holistic design,” explained Kyle, adding that he always begins a project by examining how it will fit into the wider community. In this case, the Oakley community had no place for young adults to dance and socialize.

Ideas that he incorporated into the space include a central gallery space devoted to two-dimensional, graphic art that is directly applied to “garage door” walls, walls that can be raised up and then rest flush with the ceiling, serving as a canopy. By raising these six walls, space is opened up in the gallery for dancing and socializing while still protecting the art work. Another idea: Intimate seating nooks created in what were once bank-teller stations. 

In October, Kyle - a student in UC's internationally recognized College of Design, Architecture, Art, and Planning - found out that he was a finalist in the national contest and would fly to New York to present his design to Gensler’s top executives who would be coming from all over the country, from Washington, D.C., and from San Francisco and all points between.

“At that time, I was back in Chicago after my summer studies abroad. I was back on co-op. When I found that out, I began working a few hours every day after my co-op work day. I expanded my presentation and created a branded look – business cards for the space, fliers for an opening – that were integrated into the space design,” he recollects.

At the end of November, Kyle flew to New York and presented to Gensler’s leading designers and to the editor of Contract magazine. Kyle admits to being a little on edge.  “I’d never made a presentation to more than three of my teachers at one time. This was definitely a more nerve-wracking experience.”

The worst part was having to wait in order to show his final designs, according to Kyle, who was second in the presentation line up. That meant he was forced to wait his turn for an hour.

Kyle Barker

But in the end, he said the Gensler presentation was not that much different from the many presentations he had done in class. “What really calmed me down was the fact that I’d worked on the project for so long. I knew it thoroughly. I’d practiced the presentation with my family. And I knew it represented my best work in terms of design and presentation. There was nothing more I could have done, and if I didn’t win, I would just figure I didn’t deserve to win.”

But Kyle did win, along with another student who also won a $5,000 scholarship. And while the tuition assistance is great, the best part – says Kyle – is knowing that he measures up.

“It’s the best work I’ve ever done. I knew that I felt strongly about the project and that my professors liked it, but you never know how your work is going to compare to other students around the country.”

Now he knows.


  • Visit the DAAP site for more on UC's interior design program.


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