From Competition to Design Execution in Over 80 Triangles


Sarah Peterson and David: An installation day. Photo by Urban Chalet.

Urban Chalet, a boutique design and project management firm with offices in San Francisco and New York City, reached out to Academy of Art University’s School of Interior Architecture & Design to hold a student design competition working with their “secret” client, a San Francisco firm that was looking to integrate their vision statement in a creative way onto a wall in their new SoMa office. As part of their design, students had to incorporate the phrase: “We connect people in ways that transforms lives.” The challenge was to work with a very, very—we mean very—small budget, using any style and type of media while incorporating their signature phrase. The design the students came up with would also have to be feasible for the winning student to install.

After presenting the submitted projects by Academy students, the client decided on the top three designs:

First Place: Geoscape by Sarah Peterson

Second Place: San Francisco Ocean Waves by Marija Kalas

Third Place: Crowded Simplicity by Zuleyha Sucu Celik

Senior Designer at Urban Chalet Rachael Chichester shared that “both our firm and client loved seeing the fresh concepts and ideas from the AAU IAD students during the contest.”

As the winner, IAD student Sarah Peterson had to execute her design at the client’s office in a very short period of time with the help of some of her classmates. Peterson gives us a look at what the completion was like:


Marjia Kalas. Courtesy of the School of Interior Architecutre & Design.


Zuleyha Celik. Courtesy of the School of Interior Architecutre & Design.

“The design competition was really exciting for me, and the design process was really fun. I also enjoyed feeling a part of something that was actually real and would be seen by people in the space everyday. There were so many steps involved in the process, and construction was one thing that I definitely underestimated. It took over 80 triangles to make the skyline, and each was made of wood, so I had to make a life size pattern, cut, sand, paint and drill each and every piece in just one week! I really had to time manage.

Honestly, I couldn’t have finished the wall without the help of my peers, and the amount of support I had and felt was something IAD should really be proud of.

We all care about each other and want to see each other succeed, and I think that was one of the most gratifying experiences of the competition for me. I also want to thank everyone who helped me get the wall done on time.

Overall, it was a really great experience and I learned a lot more than I expected between communicating with Urban Chalet and the client, to actually constructing and seeing the installation come to life.”

Chichester added, “Sarah’s winning design was chosen based on her bright colors and concept aligning with our client’s vision. Sarah was both professional and hardworking and the installation turned out great.”

Peterson was hired by Urban Chalet as a full time intern a few weeks later—congratulations!