January 23, 2021

By JESSICA REDIKER
In a competition where the odds were stacked against them, two Conestoga College students took home first prize.
Heather Schaefer and Nitika Oberoi, second-year bachelor of interior design (BID) students, beat out eight other teams at the Design Student Charrette Awards at the annual IIDEX show in Toronto on Sept. 20.
IIDEX is Canada’s largest national design and architecture exhibition and conference, which features not only exhibits, but a chance for students to showcase their skill in a design competition.
Each team had to design a lobby for a residential space located at Ontario Place, incorporating a “live, work and play” theme. The teams had 3.5 hours to come up with their designs, which had to meet specific criteria, before they had to present it to the judges.
The teams consisted of two interior design students from one school, as well as a landscape architecture student and an architecture student from different schools.
At least, that’s how the teams were supposed to be set up. The architecture student for Schaefer and Oberoi’s team never showed up.
This was only one of the disadvantages the team faced.
In addition to being down a member, their team lacked the experience of the other teams.
Conestoga College was the only school to send two second-year students, as opposed to the third-year and fourth-year students on all of the other teams.
The BID program was only launched in the fall of 2011 at Conestoga, making second-year students the only eligible competitors from Conestoga this year.
Overcoming these obstacles made the victory all the sweeter for the students, who will split the $1,000 prize between themselves and their fellow teammate, Justine Demelis of Guelph.
“It was such a great accomplishment because we went into it thinking we weren’t going to win at all,” said Oberoi, adding she felt very nervous going into the competition.
“We were just going to show up and see what would happen and get the most out of it that we could,” said Schaefer, adding she had no expectation of even placing at the event, let alone winning.
However, it wasn’t a matter of just showing up and winning. There were a lot of strict criteria the team had to adhere to when they created their space, and a lot of creative thinking went into their idea.
“We pulled out maps and we looked at the layout of it and we got our inspiration from sailboats that you see on Lake Ontario,” said Schaeffer, whose team incorporated nautical-inspired shapes and elements into their design, as well as sustainable materials and the idea of bringing the outdoors inside.
“Blurring the line between nature and city, trying to mesh city and nature and people,” was the main concept according to Schaefer and the team did that by including water elements inside the lobby and cascading outdoors right down to the lake, to encourage people to follow their eyes and visit the lakefront.
The win is an obvious accomplishment for the new program, but what did it mean to the team?
“Confidence,” Oberoi said.