"We used the strength of the books so that people could sit on them or set things on them," architecture junior Monty Espino said of the exhibit that is currently on display in the Robert E. Kennedy library. "The books are just kind of notched into each other."

The Cal Poly Architecture Department and Robert E. Kennedy Library have joined forces for this fall’s art exhibit: “Assembly Required: An Exhibition of Polytechnic Furniture Artists and Vellum Design Winners.”

The exhibit allows students to interact with literature in a brand new way, architecture professor Thomas Fowler said.

His third-year design students were tasked with the challenge of creating chairs, tables and various other pieces of furniture from books the library planned on recycling. The creations will be displayed on the second floor of the library as part of the exhibition.

Fowler said he appreciates the fact that his students’ work will not only be seen, but also be used by the greater campus community.

“I always like when students are able to design and can actually build things,” he said. “And furniture is a very complicated thing to design and build since it has to fit everyone. No matter what size you are or how old, it has to be able to work for you.”

In some cases, the pieces work in more than just a functional way. Fowler said the books that make up some of the furniture are still readable.

Architecture junior Monty Espino worked in collaboration with a group to design one of the pieces on display. She said she likes how this exhibit can change people’s perspectives about what art is and what is functional.

“I liked taking something that you wouldn’t normally think of as furniture and making it into something that you can use,” she said.

The piece her group designed does not use any nuts or bolts, but relies solely on the books themselves to provide structure and strength.

“The way that we used the books — we actually cut into them — is not a simple way of doing it,” Espino said. “We used the strength of the books so that people could sit on them or set things on them. The books are kind of just notched into each other.”

The furniture created by Fowler’s class will be displayed along with the winning pieces from this year’s annual Vellum/College of Architecture and Environmental Design (CAED) Furniture Competition and Exhibition.

Robert E. Kennedy Library curator Catherine Trujillo said there are typically 170 entries in the Vellum competition. The winners receive prizes — ranging from $100 to more than $2,000 — prestige and spot-on display  in the library’s “Assembly Required” exhibition.

Trujillo said the exhibition is a good way of showing off the students’ work while inspiring visitors and students in other disciplines.

“This is an opportunity for them to show, in a tangible way, everything that they learned in their studios,” she said. “It’s such a great way to incorporate what the library does for students. We’re not just a place for students to study. We have this kind of intellectual spark that students can get ideas from in unexpected places.”

The exhibit opened Nov. 7, and will continue through Jan. 6 on the second floor of the Robert E. Kennedy Library.

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