Sitting Pretty: UH Designers Showcase Customized Chairs

By Mike Emery

Chair Design Video

Students from the University of Houston Gerald D. Hines College of Architecture Industrial Design program didn’t take the Wilsonart Challenge sitting down. Instead, they jumped at the opportunity to create innovative, functional chairs that would stand apart from other contemporary furniture designs.

For the past 10 years, decorative surfaces manufacturer Wilsonart has challenged students at different colleges to make the perfect chair using its patented laminate. For its 10th annual “Wilsonart Challenges…” Student Chair Design Competition, Wilsonart tapped into the talents at UH.

The results included a variety of awe-inspiring seating spaces featured in the first Wilsonart Cre8tivity Tour. The tour took these student-designed chairs to cities across the country, including Houston, Chicago, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, Seattle, Dallas and Atlanta.

Chair
Wilsonart Challenge first-place winner Jenny Trieu

The experience of creating this bold furniture piece has been beneficial for the students, including the competition’s first-place winner Jenny Trieu. Trieu’s “Infinite” chair merges the looped infinity symbol with a sleek seating design. Trieu and several other students presented their work at the International Contemporary Furniture Fair in New York.

“I am super thankful for this opportunity,” said Trieu, a junior industrial design major. “It provided me with a great experience to create something new and to have my work shown across the country. Now, I’m able to share it with my friends and family.”

Trieu and her Industrial Design classmates (guided by professor Jeff Feng) were provided with specific rules when constructing the chairs. Among these was adhering to mid-20th century modernism and space. Chairs also have to support up to 400 pounds.

“The shape that I came up with was effective because it holds in space, and the materials I used represented mid-century modernism,” Trieu said.

Trieu’s chair, six runners up and seven additional student chairs were part of the tour.

“We were excited to host the Cre8tivity Tour, which was a way to foster conversations about innovation within the architecture and design community,” said Alison DeMartino, marketing director at Wilsonart. “The hope is that this roadshow provides a platform for uncovering new ideas and discovering fresh perspectives in a fun and interactive way.”


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