Architecture + Art chair making teaches craftsmanship, shop safety, geometry

All 24 first-year architecture students received 1/3 of a sheet of plywood to create an iconic Zig Zag chair based upon Gerrit Rietveld’s mid-1930s design. Formed by four wood planes joined in rhythmic sequence, it is one of the first examples of a cantilevered solid wood chair.

This is a first-of-its-kind project, designed to orient students to shop safety; to teach tool choice and use; to understand how simple planes can define space and support the body; to understand how geometry affects structure; to become acquainted with the idea of architecture and its relation to the history of furniture; to learn and appreciate craft; to work in teams; and to understand that good design needn’t be expensive.

“It is very rewarding to see how far the freshman students have come since the beginning of the fall semester.” Tom Yacawych, shop manager

Student Josh Rivera said, “The best part about this project was seeing how one piece of wood gradually turns into a beautiful piece of furniture.”

Another student, Donovan Kurt, remarked that “It was incredible to see the process unfold and to see the progression of our chairs. It was very rewarding to familiarize myself with the wood shop as well as receive helpful guidance along the way.”

Shop manager Tom Yacawych, said, “It is very rewarding to see how far the freshman students have come since the beginning of the fall semester — starting off with machine and safety training, and moving on to fabrication with a connection back to design.”

Student Caroline Fraser said, “I would say the best part of this project would be the fabrication process and having an opportunity to step outside of the classroom and have a more ‘hands-on’ learning experience. Some of the students had not used a table or panel saw prior to the course, and Tom was so helpful and kind through the entirety of the process.”

The project was part of AP 111 Fundamentals of Architecture I, co-taught by Professors Cara Armstrong and Arthur Schaller. Architectural Studies, in our School of Architecture + Art, is one of our fastest-growing programs.

Students got to take their chairs home over the Thanksgiving break.

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