design:retail | Kaii Tu: 2012 Wilsonart Challenge Winner

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Kaii Tu: 2012 Wilsonart Challenge Winner
June 02, 2012

Q: What was the inspiration for this design?
A: California provided the context for the Torrey chair, specifically the dueling currents of nature and science. I was inspired by the form and colors of windswept pines along the coast, but filtered them through the pixilated lens of technology and computer design. Further, I wanted to reflect on California’s casual spirit. Like sitting on a tree branch, there’s a multitude of sitting and leaning positions—no single way to sit is prescribed.

Q: What were the design criteria?
A: The students were asked to respond to the theme, “What is California design today?” We were tasked with featuring Wilsonart laminate, specifically the range of wood-grain laminate. Finally, the design needed to function as a chair, and support 300 pounds.

Q: How long did the entire process take, from conception to entering the contest?
A: The entire process was two-and-a-half-months long, including the project brief, the creation of multiple concepts and the fabrication of the final design.

Q: What was your biggest challenge in designing this chair?
A: The biggest challenge was twofold: First, I needed to think carefully and critically about laminate as a material, and how to integrate it with the concept. Second, I had to figure out how to build the complex form using a combination of traditional woodworking techniques and advanced computer-aided manufacturing tools, in order to create a stable and functional furniture piece.

—Kaii Tu holds a degree in visual and environmental studies from Harvard University. He continued his studies at Design Academy Eindhoven and California College of the Arts, where he recently graduated with a degree in industrial and interaction design. Wilsonart International named Tu the winner of its 2012 “Wilsonart Challenges...” student design competition at the International Contemporary Furniture Fair (ICFF). Tu’s “Torrey Chair" features a fragmented geometry, rendered from multiple perspective points. He used a total of eight wood tones and 40 separate hand-cut pieces of Wilsonart Laminate to create the chair.

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