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DESIGNxRI Announces RI Design Hall of Fame 2015 Inductees

PROVIDENCE, RI – DESIGNxRI announces the 2015 inductees to the RI Design Hall of Fame. Inaugurated in 2014, the RI Design Hall of Fame recognizes proven leaders in the Rhode Island design community who are making an impact at local, national and international levels. The 2015 honorees will be inducted into the RI Design Hall of Fame at a celebratory event on September 24, 2015 from 6:00 – 9:00 pm on the Rooftop of the Providence G, part of DESIGN WEEK RI, September 16-27, 2015.

The 2015 RI Design Hall of Fame inductees are: Lifetime Achievement Award:  set designer Eugene Lee and architectFriedrich St. FlorianEmerging Designer Award: interior designer Kyla Coburn and furniture designer Asher Rodriguez-Dunn[See attached description on each inductee with jury comments, below.]

The Lifetime Achievement award honors designers who have made significant contributions through their design practice to the design industry, other industry sectors, and the community. In addition to an impressive portfolio, these honorees exhibit a lifelong passion for positive engagement with the design community. The Emerging Designer award recognizes RI-based designers who are impacting the field of design and the community at large through their work. These honorees show a sophisticated body of work within their discipline and a consistent commitment to improving the design industry and/or broader community. Other factors significant in the selection of inductees are their civic and volunteer contributions, as well as mentorship to the next generation of design leaders in Rhode Island.

An independent jury selected the four inductees for 2015, based on their demonstration of superior design quality, leadership and impact. The jurors are: Steve Durkee, Architect / Developer, Cornish Associates; Aidan Petrie, Co-Founder & Chief Innovation Officer, Ximedica; Kristine Merz, President, Orange Square; Samantha and Neil Best, Owners, Magma Design Group.

“We are excited to be honoring two titans of the Rhode Island design world with international reputations, as well as two emerging designers who are soaring in their respective fields,” stated Emily Hall, Co-Chair, RI Design Hall of Fame Committee. “We look forward to sharing the jury’s comments at the Hall of Fame Awards ceremony on September 24.”

The RI Design Hall of Fame was established to recognize the achievements of RI-based designers who have made significant contributions through their design practice to the design industry, other industry sectors, or the community or world at large. It is presented by DESIGNxRI, an organization working to maximize the assets of the RI design community, highlight the breadth of talent in the state, and nurture growth in the sector. The 2014 Honorees were Architect Stephen Durkee, industrial designer Martin Keen, industrial designer Aidan Petrie, and urban designer/architect William (Bill) D. Warner.

Celebrating design and the Rhode Island design community, DESIGN WEEK RI is the only annual event to bring together design happenings and activities that showcase the innovative and economic impact of design practices across the state. Over 11 days, DESIGN WEEK RI hosts featured speakers, a statewide lunch time talk series, two design conferences, a fab lab open house, and much more. Speaker and schedule details at

DESIGN WEEK RI is a program of DESIGNxRI in partnership with the Rhode Island School of Design, Association of Independent Architects (AIA) RI Chapter, American Institute of Graphic Artists (AIGA) RI Chapter, the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) RI Chapter, and A Better World by Design. This 2015 Official Design Week Sponsor is MOO, an award-winning global print and design company with facilities in Lincoln, RI. Other sponsors include (add)ventures, Bradford Soap Works, City of Providence, International Interior Design Association, Surface Matter Design, Meridian Printing, Nami Studios, Mohawk Paper, Ximedica, Durkee Brown Viveiros and Werenfels, Orange Square Design, Providence Foundation, Terra Pack, RI State Council on the Arts, and many others.

Tickets to the RI Design Hall of Fame Awards Party are $60 in advance; $65 at the door, and include heavy hors d’oeuvres and a drink ticket. Proceeds go to support the ongoing work of DESIGNxRI. Advance tickets and information at

For more information on the RI Design Hall of Fame, contact Emily Hall at 401-580-3822,

RI Design Hall of Fame 2015 Inductee Bios:

Headshots of each inductee available here

Lifetime Achievement: Eugene Lee

Eugene Lee’s career seems like almost too much for one person: He has been the Resident Designer at Trinity Repertory Company since 1967. As Production Designer for Saturday Night Live, he has designed the look of one of the most influential forces in pop culture since the show premiered in 1975. He is a three-time Tony Award winner for his designs on Candide, Wicked and Sweeney Todd, earning him a 2006 induction into the Theater Hall of Fame at Broadway’s Gershwin Theater. Television came calling once again when Eugene was hired to design the sets for the new “Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon” and “Late Night With Seth Meyers.” Through it all, he has remained dedicated to Rhode Island, not only living and raising his family in Providence, but contributing to the community by helping to refurbish the auditorium at Hope High School, designing fundraisers for WaterFire, and creating a traveling Shakespeare cart for the Brown/Trinity MFA Program. “His commitment to being here and his dedication to Trinity never veered, even with all his worldwide success,” exclaimed the selection committee. “It’s amazing to have someone in our community who is so prominent and highly decorated in his field.”

Lifetime Achievement: Friedrich St. Florian

Friedrich St. Florian’s career as an architect and educator spans more than 55 years, and though his success has taken him all over the world, his commitment to his adopted home of Providence has made him an influential figure in the city’s renaissance. Along with fellow RISD professor William Warner, Friedrich famously helped reimagine the Providence waterfront with a sketch on a restaurant napkin. He has been at RISD for more than half a century, including eight years as the Dean of Architecture and three as Acting Provost. Some of his early works are housed in the permanent collections of the RISD Museum, the Museum of Modern Art in New York, and the Centre Pompidou in Paris. He has reshaped not only our state’s capital, but the nation’s as well, winning a national competition to build his most important work, the World War II Memorial in Washington, DC.  “Friedrich St. Florian is a titan in the architecture world,” declared the selection committee. “What really elevates him is his strong commitment to teaching. He has continued to teach and mentor throughout a career that has taken him all over the world.”

Emerging Designer: Kyla Coburn

Kyla Coburn is an acclaimed interior designer and an advocate for creative urban revitalization. Her impressive body of work includes some of Rhode Island’s most beloved restaurant and bar spaces, including The Avery, Loie Fuller’s, Salvation Café, and the former Providence Black Repertory Company. She has also worked on residential projects, graphic design services for clients like Firehouse 13 and World Party Entertainment, and even set/costume design for theatrical productions like A Kwanzaa Song and A Raisin In the Sun. Her support for Rhode Island’s creative community takes physical form in several revitalization projects: her team redeveloped a turn-of-the-century Central Falls mill building into a unique riverside live/work space for artists, and they are in the process of doing the same for a former church in Pawtucket. What ultimately won over the selection committee, however, is much simpler: all the fun people have had in the spaces she’s designed. “Her work is about creating spaces in which people can enjoy themselves. People have a very emotional response to her work,” said the committee. “Her combination of being an artist and designer is what really sets her apart.”

Emerging Designer: Asher Rodriguez-Dunn

Asher Rodriguez-Dunn boasts a prodigious and accomplished career that makes it hard to believe he is not yet 30 years old. His company, Studio DUNN, has attracted accolades and awards for beautifully handcrafted wood furniture and lighting designs. That work landed him on Vogue’s 2013 list of “Ten Contemporary Designers to Collect Today,” and in 2014 Forbes named him one of their “30 Under 30.” Not content to simply succeed on his own, Asher has dedicated his talents and resources to helping others in their creative and entrepreneurial pursuits, founding Keeseh Studios, a community woodworking space providing tools, machinery, and education, and ANCHOR, a start-up incubator offering workspace and shared resources to entrepreneurs. Asher embodies design not just as a creative endeavor, but an economic driver for a city still striving to revitalize its industrial past. “He’s got a unique combination of youth with a prolific track record,” said the selection committee. “It’s not just the quality of his work, but the fact that he’s making woodworking accessible to anyone and trying to help other businesses grow. We’re impressed by what he’s doing now, and looking forward to what he’s going to do over the next five to ten years.”

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