Cal Poly architecture students displayed furniture they designed from concept to finish, during the sixth annual Vellum Furniture Design Competition this weekend in downtown San Luis Obispo.
The College of Architecture and Environmental Design partnered with Vellum Design Build, a local design firm, to host the competition.
“The competition affords our students the opportunity to legitimize their work at the scale of a small object,” said Tom di Santo, the architecture professor in charge of the competition.
Architecture students came up with a unique idea and control all aspects of the design. Any material can be used to create the piece. In the past, a student created a table entirely of recycled car parts, including a windshield and windshield wipers, di Santo said. Students must gather their own resources, keeping in mind both money and time constraints.
“I’m trying to remain very economical. I’m hoping to keep the cost under $100,” architecture senior Bianca Clayton said. “A main skill that we architects have is finding creative solutions.”
Some designers sell their finished pieces in a silent auction, open to the public, which takes place Friday evening and all day Saturday. Though a piece has sold for as much as $2,000 in the past, more and more students are deciding to keep their productions. “After spending six or seven weeks with a piece, I think it is harder for students to part with them,” di Santo said.
For many students, this is the first application of their studies to a real design. “I’m realizing the challenge of gathering resources and applying them to my design,” architecture senior Dan Angelesco said. “It is a method of trial and error.”
About 160 students have registered for the competition, more than ever before. The competition has grown steadily over the six years it has been conducted at Cal Poly. Only 80 participants attended the first competition in 2003.
Paul Abbott, the proprietor of Vellum Design Build and a Cal Poly alumni, contacted the architecture department in 2003 with the goal of working with students through a new and creative outlet. Since 2003, awareness of the competition has increased as the number of students entering climbs every year. Since a majority of the participants are upperclassmen, di Santo has begun speaking to freshmen classes with the hopes of getting some younger designers in the mix.
The top three grand prize winners receive scholarships. Several runners-up will also receive a prize, including gift cards and books. The winners will also have the opportunity to travel to Santa Barbara and exhibit their work in the Design Within Reach showroom on State Street.
In addition to winning the scholarships, there are also two prestigious awards that a piece of furniture can claim. The “Cradle to Cradle” award is given to the individual who has created the most sustainable piece, leaving the smallest ecological footprint possible, for example, using entirely recycled materials. The “Modern Master” award is given to the piece that exhibits the ideals of the modern masters, such as simplicity or authenticity.
Student work is judged by a jury of architects who come from all over the state. In the past, the competition has had jurors from as far away as Milan and Chicago. Some aspects the designs will be evaluated on include function, creativity and production.
Sponsors of the event include Design Within Reach, the College of Architecture & Environmental Design and Henri de Hahn, head of the architecture department. The money received from sponsors goes towards the prize scholarships and funds the production of the event.
Each year the competition is hosted off-campus in order to “engage the community,” di Santo said. This year, it is being held at the Atmodsphere, located off Higuera in downtown San Luis Obispo. Refreshments will be provided during the exhibits, which opens to the public Thursday evening during farmers’ market.