2021 Sylvia Harris Award: Seat at the Table

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We’re still riding a high from the 2021 SEGD Conference Experience Philadelphia and celebrating our award winners! On Day 2 of the conference, Katie Lee and Lynn Kiang (Dome Collective) received the SEGD Sylvia Harris Award for the design of Seat at the Table. This exhibition, located inside the atrium of Philadelphia’s Kimmel Center, recognizes the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment and asks the question “Where are we now?”

Looking down into the atrium of Philadelphia’s Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts, visitors can’t help but notice a collection of seven interactive installations located on the building’s ground level. Statistical information, painted in giant typography on the floor next to each installation, highlights current gender inequities in the United States. Titled Seat at the Table, this temporary exhibition recognizes the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment while acknowledging how much more needs to be done to achieve gender equity.

The 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution guaranteed women the right to vote in 1920, but it was only a first step towards greater rights for women. Seat at the Table reminds audiences of the continuing struggles of American women to achieve full equity with their male peers. Presented by Drexel University’s Vision 2020 at the Institute for Women’s Health and Leadership, the exhibition asks “Where are we now?”

To answer this question, the designers of “Seat at the Table”—Katie Lee and Lynn Kiang of Dome Collective—created seven public seating areas of custom-built furniture. Each installation literally invites visitors to “take a seat” and consider the uneven ratios of women to men in the workplace, government and society. Inspired by the Kimmel Center’s surrounding theaters, the exhibition acts as an open stage, inviting visitors to become participants within each scene. These interactive installations include a circular boardroom table where just one of 20 chairs is highlighted, representing the 5% of Fortune 500 CEOs who are women. Another includes a row of four stationary bikes where visitors can hop-on and “exercise” their right to vote while learning about voter turnout in the Presidential election years of 1920, 1972, 2016 and 2020.

Prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, the Kimmel Center’s public atrium hosted thousands of visitors per week, before and after events. Seat at the Table’s custom-built furniture, bright color palette, and large-scale typography take advantage of the atrium’s expansive space and elevated vantage points. The titles of each installation can be read from all three balconies above the atrium floor, giving visitors a bird’s-eye view of the exhibition.

At the ground level, visitors can dwell longer on each piece—which are accessible to people of various ages, heights, and abilities—for a more intimate experience.

 

 Juror Comments

“When I think of design excellence, I think of design that pushes forward a conversation. This project was refreshing, elegantly executed and served the purpose of facilitating important conversations.”

“Simple, memorable and beautiful. This installation utilized the space of the atrium and the different viewpoints beautifully. Inviting visitors to participate by taking a seat themselves is a smart way of humanizing the statistics (especially considering the added psychological effect that most people would sit on the white “majority” seats and would not want to be singled out by sitting on the yellow ones highlighting the message anew).”

Design Team Katie Lee, Lynn Kiang (exhibition strategy, creative direction, design lead) 

Collaborators Art Guild, Inc. (fabricator), Lynn H. Yeakel (Director, Institute for Women’s Health & Leadership; Founder and President, Vision 2020), Melissa Clemmer, Page Talbott, Lenfest Center for Cultural Partnerships, Drexel University (curators/project managers), Joanne Murray (Vision 2020 Historian), Dan Basmajian, MakerB Studio (Soft Furnishings Design), This is our work (graphic design), Bad Idea Factory (software development)

Photo Credits Jens Ohlsson, Dome Collective (photography); Les Munoz (videography), Dome Collective (video editor)

Project Date March 2020

Project Area 6,000 sq ft

 

To learn more about all of the 2021 SEGD Global Design Award Winners, you can find them at http://awards.segd.org/, our press release here, and the digital annual 2021 SEGD Awards Publication.

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