The Kids Are All Right: Designing an Earthquake-Resilient Classroom Table
In the seismically active region of New Zealand the threat of earthquakes is ever-present with potential implications for residents of all ages. As school children spend a large extent of their daily lives within the classroom, it is vital that they are provided with an effective means to protect and prepare themselves for natural disasters. Through the application of a qualitative, ethnographic, and ‘research through design‘ methodological approaches, this research has informed the design of a classroom table that effectively promotes safety and resilience around seismic events. Through consultation with school students and teaching staff, typologies of existing furniture and the specific needs of classroom tables in contemporary primary school environments have been evaluated within a contemporary New Zealand school context. While the development of the design aims to be appropriate for everyday use, the primary objective is to investigate the role that furniture can play in mitigating the physical threat of seismic events on children. The central research question asks: How might furniture effectively function to mitigate the physical threat of earthquakes and aid in facilitating education regarding earthquake preparedness within the context of New Zealand’s primary schools? The functions of the resultant product output - the ‘Earthquake-Resilient Classroom Table’ - are three-fold: the design aims to provide a robust structure that physically protects children during earthquakes; enable a system that alerts students when safety procedures should be implemented; and, facilitate the education of students in earthquake safety and preparedness procedures according to established practices employed in New Zealand schools. As a pervasive means of providing immediate safety and encouraging preparedness, the proposed design outcome is a prime example in the application of alternative functions and innovative technologies in the design of contemporary furniture. The focus on earthquake safety within school environments addresses a pertinent issue that has received minimal prior investigation or addressment through design, both in New Zealand and internationally. This research aims to foster discourse within the design discipline regarding new conceptualisations of design that meet the needs of contemporary school environments, and to inspire the development of furniture designs that meet the safety needs of children in natural disasters within New Zealand and beyond.