The house was built in 1959 by Ralph Wilson Sr., founder of Wilsonart International. Wilson used it as both his home and a test lab to see how many uses his company’s plastic laminate could serve in everyday living. Wilsonart purchased the Wilson House from Ralph Wilson’s widow in 1997, and has since restored it to its original appearance in 1959.
The Wilson House has been recognized as a significant architectural structure by the Texas Historical Commission and the National Register of Historic Places. For more information, check out this circa 1998 article from The New York Times.
The students began the competition period learning about Chair History and Morphorlogy. They toured both a Wilsonart factory and the Wilson House museum.
The Chair Design Competition requires each entrant to create seating products that celebrate the richness of Wilsonart International’s laminate surfacing materials. In this challenge, students have an opportunity to design and build a unique chair around their individual talents. The chairs are required to be built in full scale and must be able to support 400 pounds. Each student is responsible to build their own chair.
The final student chairs have to be constructed with Wilsonart Laminate as surfacing materials but the early mock-ups were made using a variety of materials.
The students constructed half-scale models and full-scale drawings to further analyse design details, strength and the building process.
The final two weeks were spent building the chairs and according to the student blog, whatever time was left was used to create the presentation. (Sound familiar to anyone?)
“We deliberated this year more than any other year due to the outpouring of talent,”
— design historian and materials specialist Grace Jeffers
And The Winner Is…
The winning student was Jenny Trieu with her “Infinite chair” composed of a plywood rib cage, layered with veneer then Wilsonart Laminate flowing continuously like an infinity symbol. Congrats, Jenny!
Jenny’s chair epitomizes mid-century modernism through its unique structure and bold colors. Wilsonart Laminate Zebrawood, 7980K-18 is accented by eye-catching Wilsonart Laminate in Hollyberry, D307-60. Wilsonart Laminate in Black, 1595-60 lines the edges.
About “Wilsonart Challenges…”
Wilsonart sponsors the “Wilsonart Challenges…” student design scholarship program to foster the careers of emerging furniture designers in North America. Each year, this competition challenges students at a designated design school to create a unique chair that uses Wilsonart Laminate to answer a specific design challenge.
Wilsonart selected the College of Architecture at the University of Houston to host the 2014 Challenge. The competition unfolds as a semester-long course, this year taught by Professor Jeff Feng and Grace Jeffers, design historian and materials specialist ( and daughter of a Formica salesman). The students were taught about laminate, its history, technical capabilities, current market trends and sustainability issues as well as the history of chairs as decorative art forms.
(Wilsonart is a sponsor for BlogTour NYC May 2014, but the views and opinions expressed on this blog are mine, and I will be honest in what I share. You, the reader, are my top priority and it is my goal to make sure you can trust the content and integrity of this blog.)