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Alexandria Architectural Students Raising Funds for Their Debut in New York

The design incorporates colors as well to attract users which is aimed at children.
(Courtesy photo)

Student Spirit is Behind the Sum of Its Parts for FIGMENT NYC Art Fest

By Mike Salmon

ALEXANDRIA, VA-It’s a square called the “Sum of Its Parts,” when it’s all pieced together, but when separated, the individual pieces are each a piece of foam furniture. This is the vision of Luke Rumage and Randa Malkawi, two architecture students in Alexandria who dared think outside the box and have now been invited to the FIGMENT art festival in New York City to show off their idea and get the energy from thousands of other artists and like-minded people.

Rumage and Malkawi are Virginia Tech students in Alexandria, finishing up their architecture degrees at the innovation campus on Prince Street. “We’re the only participants from here,” added Malkawi.

The structure fits together to form a cube.
(Courtesy photo)

There are obstacles though, like doing this while finishing up architectural school, holding down jobs in Alexandria and fundraising the $2,000 in one month for their trip. Oh yes, they need the materials to build their invention, buy or make weather proof covering, and borrow or rent a truck to transport it – gas, tolls and everything. Easy, right? Oh, they don’t know how to sew either so they’ll have to learn that too, all before the last day in May because they have to be there June 1.

“We’re trying to locally source everything,” said Rumage.

When assembled, the “Sum of Its Parts,” resembles a Rubik’s Cube of 1980’s fame.
(Courtesy photo)

Sums It Up

The cube will be five feet by five feet when put together, but when apart it is several chairs and seating blocks that they are convinced children will use – although it’s for the outdoors, and if you believe the vision today’s society has for children, they’re all inside playing computer games. No one is outside anymore.

That’s not going to stop Luke and Randa though. “The idea was to make it fun and playful so that anybody could use it,” Rumage said. Problems they encountered ranged from covering material, composure and all the different types of foam out there. “You solve one problem and another five show up,” Rumage said.

Getting to New York City with their project, ready for its public debut, is an obstacle for two idealistic students with little money and no outside support, but they are looking for help from their families. “We’re getting there,” said Malkani.

Designers and creators Randa Malkawi, left, and Luke Rumage attend the Virginia Tech campus in Alexandria.
Photo: Mike Salmon

The SIP is not exactly architecture, but sort of, and what they’ve learned in grad school has helped them so far. Luke started a similar idea a few years earlier, and it’s grown from there. This spring, Randa worked with the City of Alexandria on the Virginia Tech memorial bench for Chinquapin Park on upper King Street, and that made its debut in late April. “It’s designed and constructed by students,” she said. The bench is a memorial for the Virginia Tech students that were killed by a gunman in 2008. She worked with Ryan Pieper, a professor from Tech. “It was part of our class,” she said.

They’ve launched a Go Fund Me page called “Constructing Seating Solution for Figment NYC,” and they’re waiting for the total to grow.

At the Virginia Tech architectural school in Alexandria, students Juan Urey Fernandez, left, Larissa Whitney, Randa Malkawi, Alice Bell, and instructor Ryan Pieper (standing) work on the supports for a bench that will be the centerpiece for their memorial project to be installed on the grounds of Chinquapin Park. (Courtesy photo)


FIGMENT is a free participatory arts event that celebrates creativity by challenging artists and participants to find new ways to create, share, and dream. FIGMENT NYC will take place on Roosevelt Island at Lighthouse Park. It’s loosely connected to pop artist Andy Warhol, who reportedly wanted the word “Figment,” on his tombstone when he died. FIGMENT NYC is supported by the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, in partnership with the City Council, as well as by the Fund for Creative Communities, according to FIGMENT information. There are FIGMENT events in Boston and Toronto that weekend as well.

School ended for Rumage and Malkawi on May 6, and they will put more time into their project, using the wood shop at the school in Old Town to hone their masterpiece.

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