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College junior Nicole Dillard designed fire starters in the form of banned books, such as ‘The Color Purple’ and ‘Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.’ Credit: , ,

Instead of writing final papers or taking exams, students enrolled in “Architecture 302: Investigating Product Design” were able to make their own semester-culminating projects.

The final assignment required students to develop a product that used traditionally under-utilized spaces in a house, such as the narrow space behind an open door, “the flutes of a cast iron radiator, or the sill of a knee wall or a vestibule,” Architecture professor Jason Lempieri, who co-taught the class along with professor Hanna Cohan, wrote in an e-mail.

“By focusing on these confined spaces, straight jacket-like constraints are imposed upon the designer. From those constraints, creativity is born,” he wrote. “The ideas generated in the final 15 projects were the offspring of these inspiring spaces.”

College junior Nicole Dillard’s project focused on the fireplace and on “making it the heart of the home again and a communal space around which people gather,” she said.

Thus, she created fire starters — a substance that burns easily and that can be used to ignite fires — that had images of banned books, such as James and the Giant Peach, The Color Purple and Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, among others.

The fire starters, which were small blocks of wood that contained sawdust and paraffin wax, had the books’ cover images intricately engraved, down to the facial contours of the characters in the book covers.

Dillard’s intent was to “have a product that sparked conversation around banned books and censorship.”

Other projects also focused on under-utilized spaces around a house.

College junior Jayme Van Oot’s project, named “The Orga,” is an organization system that fits on a knee wall — a half wall found in many apartments. It is “essentially a plexi glass box that has a wide, colored plexi glass ribbon sandwiched between clear and frosted plexi sides, with an additional space for mail,” according to Van Oot.

College junior Avery Miller’s project, Mirror Mirror, targets the space behind an open door. It lays flat but can open out “to get a full view of the head for easy hair braiding,” Lempieri wrote.

Students had to make short videos advertising their product, all of which can be found on Penn Product Design’s Youtube Channel.

According to Van Oot, the class “encouraged us to pay close attention to detail.”

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