In connection with the Design Workshop—a design-build program within the School of Constructed Environments—Juanita Wichienkuer, MArch ’06, researched sustainable furniture resources for the new headquarters of the New York Regional Association of Grantmakers (NYRAG). That research was the beginning of Yellow Laboratory, a design-build firm Wichienkuer and former Parsons classmate Rory Connors founded in 2005. “The challenge with the NYRAG job was to recycle what was essentially trash that we found within a three-block radius of the building site,” says Wichienkuer. “We ended up designing and making tables out of parts of a bed and old Masonite pallets, and it was so successful that people wanted to buy them.” Yellow Lab’s clients have included the New Museum, the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council, and Parsons, for which she and Connors have designed furniture, installations, prototypes, and interiors.
“When I think back on my Parsons experience,” says Wichienkuer, “the Design Workshop was definitely the high point.” In the workshop—in which students take on small and medium-sized design projects for nonprofit clients—Wichienkuer created collapsible interiors for the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council and worked on restoring the Prince George Ballroom Gallery. “There’s something about actually building what you design that makes your process smoother and more efficient,” she explains, “and nothing will give you a greater appreciation for building than being part of a construction crew.”
Having completed the apprenticeship requirements, Wichienkuer plans to get her architecture license within the year while working a day job as project manager for Alcon Builders Group, a general contractor in New York. “We are close to making Yellow Laboratory a full-time business,” she says. “And while we may not always build what we design in the future, I can’t imagine designing without the kind of experimentation and play that was part of our process at Parsons.”