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Design Students Sitting Pretty
Harvard's winning entry.
There’s much more to architecture than building design, and the American Institute of Architecture Students is doing what they can to let students know it.

The AIAS recently held its third annual Chair Affair, a competition that challenges college students to create chairs using two materials: glue and corrugated cardboard. First place winners were Joel Lamere and Dave Register of the Harvard University Graduate School of Design, with Joseph Lyman of Cal Poly - San Luis Obispo in second place and the University of Oregon’s Patty Wong in third.

Runner up, from Cal Poly - San Luis Obispo.

The first and second place winners were not available for comment, but we did manage to contact Wong. When asked what prompted her to enter the competition, she said she wanted to challenge herself. “(I wanted to go) beyond what I do within my school,” Wong says. “On to the national level.”

Wong, 22, challenged herself further by not using glue in her design.

Wong's design took third place.

“A lot of the pieces I saw used glue…(but) I wanted to find a way that could make use of the cardboard, and only cardboard for every part of it, including fastening,” Wong says. “Glue is in no way necessary for (my design’s) structural integrity.”

“The purpose is for students to explore a different construction material as well as better understand… systems, engineering and ways to construct things,” says Michael Geary, the executive director of AIAS. “It’s a good creative test to explore engineering beyond designing a building,”

The designs of the nearly 100 students who entered the competition were judged on the basis of a clear and easily comprehendible design, originality, and whether or not they were ergonomically comfortable, aesthetically pleasing, and cleverly designed. After a jury judged the designs in April, six competitors remain as semi-finalists. The final six were judged June 8 at the 2006 AIA National Convention and Design Exposition in Los Angeles. The finalists’ entries are displayed as part of the student lounge and gallery hosted by AIAS.

“People come by our lounge just to see the chairs,” Geary says. “It’s a great opportunity for students to get exposure (and) learn about the profession.”

Chair Affair is sponsored by the International Corrugated Packaging Foundation (ICPF), a company that looks to expose architecture and design students to other materials, in hopes of garnering interest in the packaging industry.

“They are seeking talented people to work for packaging manufacturers,” Geary says of the ICPF. “This is a way for them to meet students.”

The students with the top two designs will attend the Association of Independent Corrugated Converters Convention in Chicago in October to meet with people who work in the field. Two years ago, the first place winner left the convention with a job with a packaging company.

“It’s good for them to see there are career opportunities other than building design,” Geary says, “(including) furniture and packaging and beyond that.”

The total prize money awarded during the competition is $7,125, with the first prize winning receiving $2,500. But Geary hopes to leave the competitors with something much more valuable.

“(Design competitions are) a way for students to explore creative solutions in a safe environment,” Geary says. “It’s a great way for students to take what they learned in the classroom and apply them to real life and creative situations.”

(All photos by AISA)


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