Can A Chair Create Context?

Can A Chair Create Context?

In Boone, North Carolina, eleven chairs are on display at the Turchin Center for the Visual Arts until February 5, 2016. Each gathered with their designers on January 16th to be judged in the 9th Annual Appalachian State Chair Competition. The competition was open to undergraduate and graduate students throughout the United States. Designs were judged by Robert J. Maricich (CEO of the International Market Center), Todd Campbell, (Design Director for Bernhardt), and Bill Mcloughlin (Chief Content Editor for Furniture Today).

Each design was built on the theme of “Context”. According to the design brief hosted by Appalachian State University, “’Context’ is a chair design and fabrication competition organized to promote and encourage an exploration in contemporary production setting. In a world environment where change is the only constant, "Context" looks to explore the relationship that something as individual as a chair can impact that environment.”


Can a chair be designed to create its own context?


Designers approached that question in various ways. Some chairs addressed historical references and iconic pieces, reimagining the old into something new. Some exhibited fine handcrafted accents and innovative material combinations. Others addressed Context by showcasing versatility and interaction.

2nd Place

Second place winners, Mary Lee Carter and Patrick Walraven designed two small birch plywood stools that nested into one another to create a larger usable surface.  Their winning chairs, Akin, offered a response to the growing trend of flexible seating in and out of the home, while also providing a great solution to those in compact spaces.

3rd Place

Emphasizing small spaces was one of many things that inspired Sheilla Sanon as she designed Mèir. Her half-table, half-chair piece allowed users to define the design by the context present in that moment. With cotton rope woven around a portion of its maple frame, Mèir displayed a unique yet simple perspective on seating and received an award for third place.

1st Place

The first place prize went to Rider Evans for EMIT, an outdoor chair with a whole lot of flair. Time and sunlight were the driving forces behind EMIT’S design, function, and name. (Emit is ‘time’ spelled backwards. JSYK.) The twelve fiberglass facets paid homage to the hours on a clock and the seat was coated in a photochromic paint that allowed UV sunlight to change its hue from white to rose.  



So…can a chair be designed to create its own context?

While we may think of chairs to be static, highly functional, design products, furniture can take on a life of its own. Reflecting on the way we sometimes ‘improperly’ use chairs and the way we feel when we use them can inspire us to create new dynamic innovations in the world of furniture.


The answer is yes. Yes, yes, yes.  

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