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Wilsonart Announces Winners of 13th-Annual Student Chair Design Competition


May 23, 2017

The theme “Borders, Boundaries and Mashup” inspired students at San Diego State University to design uncommon chairs for the 13th Annual Wilsonart Challenges Student Chair Design Competition. Each entry explored a resolution of life between extremes and uses patterns from the Wilsonart Laminate Collection. The winning chair and five runners up are making their first public appearance in booth #2039 at the 2017 International Contemporary Furniture Fair (ICFF) in New York.

Wilsonart created the yearlong program, which is both a sponsored class and competition. Students learn how to design and build a chair, as well as how to prepare for a major trade show. Wilsonart introduced the program more than a decade ago, making it the longest-running sponsored student design class in the U.S.

Matthew John Bacher won the 2017 competition with his design “A Piece of Tlaltecuhtli.” His chair appears as a still life and serves as a visual dialogue that explores the politics of cultural appropriation. Inspired by The Tlaltecuhtli Monolith, a giant monolith found at the Museo del Templo Mayor in Mexico City, Bacher created a literally incomplete picture that mirrors the lack of accurate representation by appropriators.

“Laminate was the perfect material for this piece because Milano Rosso, the pattern he selected, mimics real stone,” said Grace Jeffers, design historian and Wilsonart Challenges program director.  “The chair itself is a statement about appropriation, and the use of Wilsonart surface material emphasizes this message. The judges unanimously agreed that this chair was unlike anything any of us had ever seen before, and the story was smart and compelling.”

The runners up included (photo below):
– Megan Acera for Joyful Frustration
– Richard Lopez for  New Order
– Chuck Thompson for Home Less Home
– Anna Karreskog for Waves
– Casselle Reinke for Origins

A different design school hosts Wilsonart Challenges each year. Every chair is one-of-a-kind, handmade by the individual student and not intended for mass production. Bacher will receive a scholarship and an all-expense paid trip to New York to premiere his chair at ICFF.

“Interpreting ideas and emotions and personalizing them through design is a tremendous achievement, and this year’s students, once again, have created beautiful, transcending works of art,” said Alison DeMartino, marketing communications director at Wilsonart. “With a challenging theme and a multicultural environment like San Diego, the students have magnificently captured the many passions running throughout the country with dramatic chair designs that celebrate diversity and freedom.”