Students and faculty from the School of Architecture + Design, along with students and faculty from the School of Visual Arts, in the College of Architecture, Arts and Design, and from the College of Engineering, showcased their design work as one of 750 invited exhibitors at the 2017 International Contemporary Furniture Fair, held May 21-24 at the Jacob Javits Convention Center in New York City. The annual event, which challenges industry leaders and emerging new talent to share their visions of “what’s best and what’s next” in contemporary furniture, drew more than 35,000 visitors seeking a glimpse of the future of design.

Members of the School of Architecture + Design team at the ICFF: (L to R) Architecture student Michael Folta, Professor Robert Dunay, graduate student Edward Coe, Assistant Professor Nathan King, and wood shop craftsman Jonathan Rugh.

Virginia Tech’s exhibit, entitled “Technology and Tradition: Explorations at the Intersection of High Tech and High Craft,” featured work from art, architecture, industrial design, and mechanical engineering students and faculty, as well as engagement with industry, academic, and design partners in the U.S., Rwanda, Uganda, Malawi, Australia, and Austria. Exhibited works included a suite of locally sourced and manufactured furniture developed by Virginia Tech students in collaboration with students from the Kabuga Technical Secondary School in the Kamonyi District of the Southern Province of Rwanda. The work is part of an ongoing partnership between the School’s Center for Design Research and MASS Design Group, a Boston- and Kigali, Rwanda-based design office and founder of the African Design Centre. Last year, Jonathan Rugh and Mark Leach, from the School of Architecture + Design’s wood shop, accompanied Center for Design Research co-director and assistant professor Nathan King to Rwanda to lead students in designing and fabricating the furniture.

Other contributors from the College of Architecture and Urban Studies included: Edward Coe, a master’s student in architecture from Middlebury, Connecticut; Martha Sullivan, assistant professor of practice in industrial design; Martin Angst, master’s student in architecture from Hamburg, Germany; Jason Cusack, master’s student in architecture from Griswold, Connecticut; Liz Ligouri, M.F.A. in creative technologies student from Brooklyn, New York; Michael Folta, architecture student from Blacksburg, Virginia; Yibin Yang, architecture student from Guangzhou, China; Sarah Ahart, industrial design student from Sterling, Virginia; Jacqueline Jennette, industrial design student from Virginia Beach, Virginia; and Michael Watanabe, industrial design student from Salatiga, Indonesia. Contributors from the College of Engineering included: Chris Williams, associate professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering; Joseph Kubalak, Ph.D. candidate in mechanical engineering from Franklin, Tennessee; and Cameron Buss, mechanical engineering student from Blacksburg, Virginia.

The work was produced through the Center for Design Research, directed by Prof. Robert Dunay, supported by the Autodesk Foundation and the Institute for Creativity, Arts, and Technologies at Virginia Tech, through an Autodesk BUILD grant, and by Universal Fibers, and conducted in collaboration with MASS Design Group; Jeff Snider and Matt Tolbert in the Virginia Tech School of Architecture + Design metal fabrication laboratories; Gustav Fagerström and Steve Lewis of Walter P. Moore Engineering; Nick Cote, Matt Jezyk, and Mike Kirschner of Autodesk; Aziza Cyamani, MASS intern; and Emmanuel Kalisa and Aziza Cyamani, carpenters at Kalka and Partners in Rwanda.

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