An Engaging Way to Give

A new twist on bridal showers helps furnish a lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community center.

How do you get designer furniture into a low-budget community center? Gensler, the high-volume, international architecture and design firm has figured out a way. When they were designing Chicago’s Center on Halsted—a 175,000-square-foot space for the gay, lesbian, bisexual, and trans-gender community—scheduled to open in June 2007, the team came up a unique concept they call “furniture shower”.

“When straight couples get married or have children, they have showers and invite their community to come together and get things started,” explains Carlos Martinez, Gensler principal and regional design director. “We borrowed that institutionalized idea to design a space with the right furniture using a registry.” Martinez and his colleagues developed the Furniture Shower website so that the online community-at-large can purchase pre-selected pieces for the center.

“A lot of people can’t give a hundred thousand or a million dollars, but they can give $100 for a chair, or get five friends together and buy a nice table,” Martinez said. An unusual collaboration of grants and donations by government and non-government entities as well as manufacturers and design companies make the ideal interior within reach.

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The shower list reads like a who’s who of design: Verner Panton lamps, Eileen Gray chairs, Interface rugs, and other notable brands will fill spaces from the lobby to the roof garden. The community rooms will be furnished with Izzy mobile tables and Keilhauer Ripple chairs in every color available reinforce the facility’s diversity. “The many-colored chairs go around the same table, like a community of individuals,” said Martinez.

On April 10, a benefit party will be held in Chicago where last-minute donations can be made to help purchase the items that are still needed to furnish Center on Halsted.

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