In 2004, local design and build firm Vellum Design Build paired with Cal Poly’s College of Architecture and Environmental Design (CAED) to host a furniture-building competition. The purpose was to push students to think outside the box when it comes to design.

During Nov. 4-5, Vellum Design Build and CAED hosted their 13th installment of this Annual Furniture Competition.

Each year, a panel of furniture designers, architects and CAED faculty members judge participants’ original designs. The participants are mostly CAED students, so the competition provides an opportunity for them to gain exposure to the design industry and push their creative limits.

From rocking chairs to side tables to board games, the competition attracted a diverse group of students, each boasting a keen eye for detail.

Architecture senior Casey Wong was determined to design something that would help the elderly. After brainstorming, Wong decided to build the pieces of a Chinese game called Mahjong.

The game requires strategy and calculation skills. Hong Kong Institute of Education researchers found that regular participation in Mahjong might aid in easing symptoms of dementia and other cognitive and memory impairments.

After playing with different materials, Wong built his Mahjong set with gra

nite, basswood and acrylic pieces.

Standing proudly beside his design, Wong was thrilled whenever attendees admired his work.

“It’s so great to see the things you imagined finally brought to life,” Wong said. “This competition fully embodies the Cal Poly motto of ‘Learn by Doing’ and this whole process has been so rewarding.”

Another design that gained a lot of attention was a light fixture created by architecture senior Benjamin Johnson. It featured inductive lighting, where a light ignites without any physical contact.

Johnson went to the furniture competition before, but said that this year had the biggest turnout.

“Everyone at this event is just super excited about design,” Johnson said. “I find it really satisfying to see everyone appreciate the hard work each of the participants put into
their pieces.”

To learn more about Vellum Design and Build’s partnership for this annual competition, or to view the work of past showcases, visit

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