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A Look at Mod Cardboard Chairs Designed and Built by Teens

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Welcome back to The Amateur Architect, wherein Curbed drops in on kids' summer classes hosted by The Center for Architecture Foundation in NYC. Now in its 10th year, Summer@theCenter offers 8 to 18-year-olds weeklong programs in such fields as dream-house designing and rooftop planning. This column will feature some of the stories, projects, and, of course, the young designers themselves, so, please, do follow along. Next up: Chair Design.

On a recent rainy Thursday, a trio of teenagers wielding Xacto knives were busy building cardboard furniture, one an undulating chaise lounge, another a contemporary perch, the third a rounded chair with a complementary side table. The CFA's Chair Design and Build class is the only offering after which the students get to take home something in real-scale, something they built using familiar materials and strange construction methods (there was a lot of YouTube learning involved). During the weeklong class, the three pupils went to a handful of furniture stores around NYC's soho neighborhood (to glean inspiration), built scale models, and, the grand finale, created—with the help of four classroom assistants—the designs in real life. And, naturally, life lessons abounded: accept imperfections ("I like the deformed one."), love your work enough to save it when it's in peril ("AH! My child!"), and, of course, value knife safety above all else ("I'd rather do it quick and lose an eye.")


? This is not the first time in the ring for Alma, 14; she's honed her design chops at "three or four" other architecture summer programs, including the dream house one for elementary schoolers (covered here). And while she may no longer have her heart set on a career in design—"Now I'm really into forensics," she said. "I don't know if you need to know this for your article, but I wrote this 12-page project on the minds of pedophiles and thought it was so[ooo] interesting"—she still "likes architecture," and, from the looks of her curvy lounge, she's got something of a talent. "I really like the look of the profile of a curved chair," she said. "I wanted to do something circular, but I was like ,'What? How am I supposed to make a circular chair out of cardboard?'"

This is how: Alma and Margaret, one of the class assistants, notched the wavy cardboard slats to allow for sheets of cardboard to transect them, keeping the pieces spaced apart and locked together (above). "I like that this is a larger scale," she said. "I like that it's something I can take home and use." What's more, because the whole thing dissembles into thin pieces, it's easy to store in an NYC apartment. "I might not have room for it in my house, but because it's all interlocking parts, I can save it for later." When it was done, Alma sprawled on it. "Oh my god it's so comfortable." When a piece wobbled, Alma cried out, "Ah! My child!" Margaret chimed in: "Welcome to the world of design."


? Mark, 13, found the program because he "was always into design and architecture. I'm always trying to build and create stuff." His chair, a stool described by Tim Hayduk, the lead educator at the Foundation, as having "sort of Frank Lloyd Wright look about it," had undergone a metamorphosis of its own. (Or, as the class assistant Andrew puts it: "We've changed everything like 10 times.") By the end, Mark hated cutting (he's the one responsible for both the "deformed" and "lose an eye" quotes, above) but his chair? Yeah. Pretty awesome. "I really just wanted it to hold my weight." Ah, the words of sweet success.


? Andrea, 17, enjoyed how simple the construction was. "A five year old could build it," she said. The inspiration for her chair above? A trip to the Museum of Modern Art and the high-end furnishings store Design Within Reach, where the class saw many a mod seating design. "Everything was symmetrical—the same size and shape. I liked that." Once she was in good shape with her chair, a circular, slotted little seat, she used the leftover cardboard to create a matching table.

And, of course, with only three students, there was a bit of spare time for the classroom assistants to build their own cardboard seating. Below, Lenny and Mark's creations:

· Center for Architecture Foundation Summer Programming [official site]
· All The Amateur Architect posts [Curbed National]