by Mindy Mozer
Photos by A. Sue Weisler
Architect Gian-Paul Piane ’07 (woodworking and furniture design) had been working on building projects on the RIT campus for years when he attended the Master of Fine Arts in furniture design thesis show in 2000.
“I was pretty intrigued,” Piane said, adding that following the show he got more information on the program. “I decided it might be a good complement to a career as an architect and applied, thinking there was no way that would pan out but what the heck.”
Now this architect and furniture designer is in charge of designing RIT’s new Alumni House, which will open in 2017.
Piane was project manager on a number of building projects in the 1990s on the RIT campus, including the Kate Gleason College of Engineering addition, Louise Slaughter Hall, which houses the Center for Integrated Manufacturing Studies, and the Café and Market at Crossroads.
But a year after seeing the thesis show, Piane took a leave of absence and became a full-time graduate student at RIT.
“Some might call it not so sane,” he said. “It was an intriguing possibility as an extension of architecture.”
After he finished his coursework, he went back to his day job but spent Fridays and weekends working on furniture, mainly commissioned pieces.
He joined SEI Design Group in Rochester in 2007, and six years later he became a partner of the firm. In December 2015, SEI Design Group was hired to be the architects for the Alumni House.
Piane is responsible for the project and is charged with giving an old farmhouse (pictured left) a new look to welcome alumni. That includes office space for Alumni Relations, a renovated kitchen and sleeping quarters, a conference facility, a new entry, parking and creating a connection into campus.
“Gian-Paul is a great example of what RIT for Life is all about,” said Kelly Redder, assistant vice president, RIT for Life, and the director of the RIT Alumni House. “He’s supporting RIT with his professional skills and connections, and in turn, helping to create a facility that will benefit the campus and the alumni body. It’s a great giving-receiving cycle that our alumni and the university can build.”
Piane, who still makes furniture and teaches a general crafts study class at RIT on Thursday nights, said he is honored to be involved with creating a space for alumni.
“It’s not just any project,” Piane said. “I have always had a close association with RIT. For me this is completing the circle.”