Jan 2019 — Ah, Florence Italy — the birthplace of the Italian Renaissance—“the museum with no roof,” the source of artistic inspiration that has endured for centuries, and the location of the 2019 International Art & Design Competition: What’s BLOOMING in Your Country?
The competition showcased what’s BLOOMING in any art form—interior design, jewelry, painting, drawing, and more—in any country of one’s choosing. Academia Riaci, a well-known design school in Italy, sponsored the competition.
Nikita Bontra, a senior interior design student in the Shintaro Akatsu School of Design at the University of Bridgeport, was one of five UB students (14 UB students submitted their designs in total) awarded third place in the competition. Students from all over the world submitted their artwork—Korea, Thailand, Israel, China, Singapore, Egypt, Ethiopia, Chile, to name a few.
According to Bontra, “My large-scale 26,000 square-foot project, a spa, and retreat, were many projects combined into one, including a restaurant and an outdoor deck with an infinity pool and hydrotherapy area.” An interesting feature of her ambitious project included a swing where you could sit and read a book while your feet touch the water on the cliff side (a Bontra invention).
Bontra’s project was inspired by an area she is familiar with—Dharamshala in the mountainous northern region of India. “I used reinforced concrete and iron to guard against the monsoon season, incorporated pink and blue neutrals (referred to as tropical modernism), and used angles to ensure that the structure sat ergonomically cliff side.” She wove natural colors throughout the spa and resort design from metals, such as brass and the greenish (when polished) Salumber marble.
The front entrance is wood side (in a wooded area) where you can enter and walk until you reach the cliff side (the end of the structure facing the water).
For a better understanding of Bontra’s project and the meditative aspect of her design, think about relaxing in both indoor and outdoor spaces (yes to verandas, plants, open ceilings, and atriums). “Í had to think of the environment when creating my design, such as making sure the pool was lifted up to avoid any area snakes.”
Bontra plans to pursue a master’s and a PhD with the end goal of teaching interior design. She also wants to practice her art and own and operate an interior design firm. “I want my firm to serve different cultures and lifestyles where I have the opportunity to travel. I also look forward to mixing traditions with modernity.”
Marsha Matto, chair of the interior design department, was a source of inspiration for Bontra. “Professor Matto pushes her students to a higher level. She encourages us to work in the field while completing our degrees.”
Bontra also appreciates Matto’s candor. “Professor Motto is very honest about the field of interior design. It sounds glamorous, but it takes hard work and determination to succeed. She lets us know how pivotal research is in the design process. You can’t just sit down and illustrate a design using CAD, SketchUp, or another program without some solid upfront thought.”
The four UB students who also earned third place in the international competition include Mona Albalawi, Jiaxing Xiong, Zhioyao Xu, and Xiatong Xu. Their projects included a French café, a hotpot restaurant, a dessert shop in Japan, and a clothing store in Italy with a café above it.
First and second place winners were awarded free tuition for a master’s program at Academia Riaci. Third place winners were awarded a 50 percent tuition discount.