About heidi.korsavong

Heidi Korsavong is an interior designer at Aero Studios, a Thomas O'Brien Company, who specializes in high end residential interiors. She has a Bachelors of Arts in Psychology and Art History from New York University. She has lived abroad studying art and architecture in Madrid, Spain and Florence, Italy. Her varied work experience includes positions at the New Museum, Alexander and Bonin Gallery, and Sills Huniford Associates Interior Design. She is currently pursuing a Masters of Arts degree in Sustainable Interior Environments at The Fashion Institute of Technology with a focus in textile design and production as it relates to indigenous cultures.

Research Project Outline- Heidi Korsavong




DECEMBER 3, 2012

Research Question:

How do U.S. made textiles for interiors employ sustainability in their production?  How can we support more local textile artisans to adopt sustainable practices?

Literature Review:

Stieg, Cathy 2006. “The Sustainability Gap,” Journal of Interior Design Vol. 32, Number 1 pg. 7-21

This article addresses the gap between theory and practice on the topic of sustainability with regards to the interior design profession.  The author seeks to address this issue by increasing connection and knowledge of the subject to be integrated within all phases of the design process and practice.  She believes this shift will lead to a commitment on interior designers part to adopt sustainable behavior in all aspects of their design approach.  This article is relevant to my research question in that the same issues: lack of education, conflicting information, industry criteria such as LEED affect textile designers’ ability to easily adopt sustainable practices.  This article offers a starting point to address these issues and encourage implementing positive change.

Beatty, Bronwyn and Lorena Gibson, 2009, “Culture and Development: New Paradigms.” Knowledge Notes, Synexe 2009/02

In “Culture and Development: New Paradigms”, Bronwyn Beatty and Lorena Gibson discuss how neo-liberalism has given rise to thinking about culture as an asset in development.  This is in stark contrast to more traditional economic and policy models, which tended to view culture as an impediment to progress.  The term creative economy is the concept is used to describe the creativity and learned knowledge to culturally distinctive produce goods and services.  They look to incorporate culture into development as an institution.  By doing this they recommend tapping into existing local networks and structures.  By infusing stakeholders with a familiar and existing framework, they encourage ownership and participation.  Secondly, using culture as a resource isolates what is unique and distinctive about objects or materials coming out of the culture.  These traditional goods and services become products and commodities, which are a sustainable and viable economic option to decrease poverty.

Conaway, Janelle.  2012. “A Peruvian Textile Tradition and the Challenges of the Marketplace” Grassroots Development, v33 n1 p29-33 2012

In, “A Peruvian Textile Tradition and the Challenges of the Marketplace” the author provides an overview of the efforts of the Center for Traditional Textiles of Cusco (CTTC), a non profit organization that supports the local textile weaving industry in Chinchero, Peru.  The organization provides economic means for approximately 700 weavers in 10 communities.   They have made commitments to their weavers to purchase their goods in advance of sales. Each community sets its own standards for pricing and quality control. The article addresses the challenges the organization faces.   First, it is difficult to charge high prices on the textiles because consumers do not understand the high level of skilled labor and time involved in the weaving process.  Secondly, the system is reliant primarily on a local tourist market and a few buyers, which is in keeping with the communal way of life, but does not reach the amount of buyers needed to keep the system sustainable.  Finally, the organization also addresses the balance of keeping traditional textiles alive and adapting their products to appeal to a contemporary marketplace.  From the facts, the article points to the importance of educating tourists and other consumers on the high quality, rich tradition, and cultural value of purchasing the textiles produced by the indigenous Peruvian communities.


Both articles highlight the value of cultural diversity, indigenous knowledge and posit that sustainable business models come from encouraging community participation as well as making those involved stakeholders.  While the articles both focus on indigenous, often marginalized, people in foreign countries, the concepts are still applicable to small, local businesses.


I plan to conduct personal interviews with individuals involved at different levels of the textile field on the curatorial level and individual artisans.  Three sources I have initially outlined to interview are:

–          Textile Curator at the American Folk Art Museum.  In this interview, I hope to gain a better insight into the rich textile traditions indigenous to this country and some historical context to place contemporary textile artisans within.


–          Curator of On Purpose: Art & Design in Brooklyn, 2012 at the BRIC Arts Museum, whose current show focuses on: “On Purpose will feature inspiring work from Brooklyn-based designers, architects, and visual artists working across disciplines on projects that address the environmental challenges of contemporary urban living. All of the work featured in the exhibition will combine a focus on sustainability with a desire for beauty in our social, domestic, and professional spaces.”  For local artisans, supporting community involvement as well as exposing their products to potential consumers is necessary to support the economic aspect of their sustainable business models.  In this interview, I hope to gain knowledge of those active in promoting these artisans as well as ways to increase their visibility to the larger interior design community.


–          Textile Artisan for Interior Fabrics.  By interviewing an textile designer currently practicing in the field, I want to understand the decisions that govern design decisions and the production process to see if there are ways to implement more sustainable and environmentally conscious practices.


What is at Stake?

Born out of an interest in rich textile traditions of indigenous cultures, I want to examine the artistic value and techniques created by local artisans.  Rather than exoticizing the textile traditions of foreign cultures, I want to focus my research on a more local level.  By studying small businesses and individual textile artisans and learning their practices from their fiber choices, sources, finishing techniques and dyeing processes, I think small changes can be made working within an existing infrastructure to adopt more sustainable practices, increase exposure and education for both the artisan and consumer.

Private and Public Space as it relates to Power



November 19, 2012

Mini Paper: Private and Public Space


The nature of power is complex and its application can be interpreted in numerous ways.  Power and how it relates to designers, architects, and scholars with relation to private and public space lies in examining social norms and the language used to define it.  It can be a strong tool for manipulation and employed on both micro and macro scales.  In three articles on private and public space, I will examine how power is used to control and frame perceptions of occupants in their space.



In, People Who Live in Glass Houses: Edith Farnsworth, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, and Philip Johnson, Friedman chronicles the events surrounding the conception and construction of the Farnsworth House, an iconic architectural work by Mies van de Rohe.  The home was designed in 1960 and conceived as a modern glass structure.  The client, Edith Farnsworth, an unmarried doctor in her mid forties, commissioned the home as a weekend retreat.  What is architecturally unique about the building is its thin, transparency curtain wall.  The openness of the structure draws attention the private space: and inner activities of the occupant.


Mirroring the physical transparency of the building, the different structures of power at work against the client, Edith Farnsworth also became exposed.  First, the client found herself at the mercy of the architect’s vision.  He was unconcerned with her programmatic needs and what she actually needed to live functionally and presented her with essentially an open plan, arguing that it was a demonstration of minimalism. In this case power is gained by positioning design decisions as a “choice between taste and mediocrity.”[i]  Using the form of the structure rather than any sensitivity to human activity resulted in a lifeless space devoid of any personalization and what Proshansky termed as place identity: a physical realization of one’s sense of identity and place in the world.

In addition to the uneven distribution of power between the client and architect, the glass structure revealed the  friction between the client’s lifestyle and socially acceptable norms of that era.  Being unmarried and without children, Farnsworth became the victim of public judgment.  The fact that the client was able to commission her own home is ironic because it is in keeping with the 1940s idea of success, but the fact that she was an unmarried woman, the popular sentiment at that time was that she, “forfeited her place, both physical and symbolic, within American Society.”  The concept of voyeurism was also brewing at the  was also catching on with the popularity of TV as a medium for consumption by disrupting the traditional divisions between the public and private spheres.  The glass walls of the Farnsworth home, sparked public interest and curiosity and allowed little control over the public gaze.


In, “Introduction: The Global and the Intimate,” authors Geralding Pratt and Victoria Rosner use feminism to cast light on the power of language at work in defining “global” and “intimate.”  Traditionally, these two terms are thought to be in on two ends of the spectrum and can be used as a way to exclude.  However, the authors argue that these terms are in fact intertwined and politics can be a motivating factor in having them be in opposition to one another.


When discussing the global sphere impersonal, abstract terminology is used.  The idea is that it is meant to be ungendered, which is assumed to embody the male persona.  Global terms cover concepts such as economics, globalization, and capitalism.  Here women are portrayed as passive bystanders, or even worse as victims in globalization scenarios.  By contrast, the inimate realm embodies traditionally feminine associations of the body, emotion, and attachment.  The authors point out that applying these associations to more global terms can help paint a more comprehensive picture.  Emotion can be a strong tool for analysis.  In binary opposition, objectivity is given over in favor of comprehension. Abstract terminology and language can only provide a framework, but cannot encompass individual experience.  Furthermore, using intimate terms has often been given negative connotations as a way of positioning and legitimizing restructuring policy.


Finally, in Putting the Public Back into Public Space,  Kurt Iveson discusses four models of public space: the ceremonial, the community, the liberal, and the multipublic. The ceremonial model of public space encompasses the conventional notion of public squares.  The spaces are embued with a processional quality and are thought to be state owned and provided to the public.  In this model, the agenda of the state is to encourage people to gather, but to always maintain some level of control over their socialization.  In the community model of space, the space is thought to be designated for the public to encourage community participation and attendance.  The success of the community model of public space lies in its effectiveness of providing the community with what it needs.  Typically, it is placed in a centralized location and embodies and individual’s positive place identity requirements: by fulfilling individual needs, rights, and meaning.  The liberal model of public space is conceived to be a multifunctional space where rational discourse and diversity are encouraged. Private individuals are thougth to come together and form this public space.  Iveson’s criticism of this is that the ideals set up in the liberal model of public space are in fact exclusionary because only the participants interests are represented as they will ensure their needs are met before others.  The last model Iveson examines is the multi-public model of public space.  He calls for the existence of a number of publics that are adaptable and mutable and will arise to accommodate a diverse group of publics.  It is in these models that power is achieved through perception and application.  those who own or indabit the space are able to control it.


In the case of my research question, language and perception are there key tools to the discussion of power.  For instance, there is not a single agreed upon definition of sustainablity.  The question is who defines it and what rules and regulation should follow it.  A common language and set of principles is needed to study and organize this framework. The private and public sphere are both affected by setting up these guidelines.  In my case, I am focusing on local artisans and small businesses.  It is on a small scale, with very little global impact.  However, within this microcosm there is a large potential to influence artisans to adopt sustainable practices in the materials they use and the waste from their production processes.  The obstacles to this are many as it is difficult to regulate and standardize.  Additionally, these guidelines need to be flexible or broad enough to adapt to each product. Finally, economics also comes into question.  By adopting sustainable pracices, do these small businesses and artisans gain a significant financial advantage?  Is their customer even interested in this shift?  Can you motivate change even if there is very little financial incentive?










[i] Friedman, A.T. 1998.  “People Who Live in Glass Houses: Edith Farnsworth, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, and Philip Johnson,” in Women and the Making of the Modern House: A social and Architectural History.  New York: Harry N. Abrams.  pp. 128-159


Works Cited

Friedman, A.T. 1998.  “People Who Live in Glass Houses: Edith Farnsworth, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, and Philip Johnson,” in Women and the Making of the Modern House: A social and Architectural History.  New York: Harry N. Abrams.  pp. 128-159

Iveson, Kurt.1998. ” Putting the public back into public space,” Urban Policy and Researach, 16 (1): 21-33

Pratt, Geraldine, and Victoria Rosner. 2012. ” Introduction: The Global & the Intimate,” The Global & the Inimate. CUP.


Proshansky, Harold M., et al. 1983.  “Place-Identity: Physical World Socialization of the Self,” Journal of

Environmental Psychology, 3: 57-83


100,000 sf Greenhouse Rooftop Planned for Brooklyn



Bright Farms is a privately owned company slated to develop the largest rooftop farm in the United States on the site of a former Navy warehouse in Brooklyn.  Set to open in Spring 2013, the greenhouse will make use of hydroponic agriculture which will help to conserve storm water runoff.

An Amsterdam Office Made from Cardboard:


This article features an interior office space designed by Nothing, an Amsterdam based design firm.  The interior structures of the office are constructed entirely out of cardboard, an inexpensive and recyclable material.  The firm utilizes a “no screw- no glue” construction technique which promotes a cleaner indoor air environment as well as makes for easy replacement of one component if a piece gets damaged.

Air Dye Technology


This website showcases an innovative technique in the textile dyeing industry.  By air dyeing fabric, it eliminates the large amount of toxins released and water required to achieve the traditional results.  On average, the dyeing and finishing aspects of textiles contributes to close to 20% of the industrial pollution.  This technology offers a wide range of applications for both the garment and interiors industry.

Children’s Amenities Spaces:


This article focuses on how play spaces and children’s amenities have become important aspects in the marketing of NYC residential buildings.  The trend is towards keeping children active with offering various programs.  This is popular for young families who want to maintain living in Manhattan over living in the suburbs.