Interior design students shape Colorado State campus

Every student that passes through CSU leaves an indelible mark on the university. For a small group of design students, this mark is a bit more visible than most.

Danling Hu (left) and Emily Molzahn (right) discuss landscape concept drawings in their office in the Facilities Management building at CSU on Tuesday afternoon. Hu is a graduate landscape architect major and Molzahn is an interior design grad student.
Danling Hu (left) and Emily Molzahn (right) discuss landscape concept drawings in their office in the Facilities Management building at CSU on Tuesday afternoon. Hu is a graduate landscape architect major and Molzahn is an interior design grad student.

Tucked away in a small office in the Facilities Management building, four design students spend a good part of their week subtly shaping, molding and designing spaces on campus that thousands of people pass through every day.

Graduate landscape architect major Danling Hu, senior interior design major Kaylyn Schmer, landscape architect senior Micah Sexton and interior design graduate student Emily Molzahn are a select group of students hired by CSU facilities management to assist in seeing various projects on campus “all the way through from conceptualization to installation,” said Facilities Management assistant director Fred Haberecht.

The projects might range from working with campus faculty and contractors to choose what furniture goes into a new classroom, all the way to conceptualizing how the Plaza at the Lory Student Center will blend into surrounding areas after construction is complete.

“The students are involved in the big projects in a big way, and are shepherding those projects through,” Haberecht said. “Then there are the smaller projects they end up starting completely in-house then when funding comes in and an architect may be brought in that will use those pre-designs.”

The work mirrors what can be found in any professional office, and gives the students real world experience that expands what they learn at CSU — where beautiful designs and renderings may be created but never leave the classroom.

“It’s very exciting to see something that was just an idea at one point then to see it actually installed and see people interacting with the design and sitting on the chair you selected, it’s just a great experience,” said Schmer.

This semester, Schmer did a redesign of the basement of the Education Building. After being severely damaged and repaired after the flood of 1997, the space has seen no improvements since then.

“It’s a very well used space, some might say it’s ‘hideous’- it’s definitely showing signs of aging down there,” Schmer said.

Keeping a $150,000 repair budget in mind, Schmer redesigned the space with new furniture, carpet, lighting and graphic installations on the walls.

Although the University Facility Fee Advisory Board decided not to fund the project because of budget constraints, the Education Department is going to try again in the Fall and still use Schmer’s designs, said school of education professor Nathalie Kees.

“She did a really nice job of pulling together the entire space with a common theme and a common color,” Kees said. “Because it’s a counseling facility where we see clients for counseling, the designs Kaylyn created would make someone feel confidential, where they would feel really good about sharing and want to talk to a counselor.”

All the students agreed that every single day is different and no two projects are the same.

“It’s helped me out to learn so much more and also to put me on that level of where I want to be in the next few years,” Molzahn said. “Having that connection to the university, I know so much more about what’s going on on campus.”

The team of students is a small part of an entire army of outside consultants and professional CSU staff that is constantly working on hundreds of projects around campus.

Other projects the students have contributed to include designing the lobby of the Warner Natural Resources building, conceptualizing Founders Quad as “an interpretation of the history of CSU,” creating conceptual renderings of the new Natural Resources building and slowly shaping the university’s master plan for construction projects through 2020.

Even though the professional staff provides a certain level of mentoring and guidance, the students often work independently and learn from each other as they guide the various projects through different stages of development.

“With design criteria, there might be things you don’t understand or don’t know, and here it’s a stage for me to learn from other students and people in the professional field,” said Hu.

Senior Reporter Austin Briggs can be reached at news@collegian.com