Blood, sweat, and tears.

Breathing in sulfuric fumes of a bad silver solder, picking out bits of steel wool from my clothes and fingers, almost starting two blow torch fires on the balcony of the architecture building, cutting my hand multiple times on the end of sharp copper pipes as I worsen the blisters on my hands that have developed after hours of rotating pipes on the tubing cutter, and going to bed each night with black fingers covered in dried gorilla glue. This past week I spent working on my vellum project was one of the most physically and emotionally draining experiences ever, but I've never been so proud of an architecture project of mine. A hand-crafted project requires so much time, energy, and passion. This Copper Pipe Chair was truly a labor of love. 

The Process

From initial stages of drawing inspiration, material research, sketching, modeling, and endless trips to Home Depot's aisle 33, this project took place over the span of five weeks, although actual construction only took about three days. It was extremely challenging to figure out a design with a configuration that was structural enough to hold a person's weight, and only used compression loads since the fittings were to be joined by glue. And then came the challenge of counting up and buying and cleaning all the fittings they sold at Home Depot, as well as scrubbing every length of copper pipe by hand until it shined. The hardest part was the end of construction, when I transformed into mad scientist mode at 3:00 a.m. to glue the last parts of my chair together with speed and precision as I pried apart drying sections to fit in newly glued's complicated to explain but whew, what a night. And then the next day, when I arrange to leave class early to transport my chair downtown, I find out it doesn't fit into my car at all. Murphy's law had no mercy.

The Show

But this past weekend, the chair sat in the front window display at the annual Vellum Furniture Competition, shining in the light as crowds of students, friends, families, and visitors came to see our show. My ridiculously talented classmates created the most magnificent chairs, tables, benches, light fixtures out of every material imaginable, and together we pulled off another spectacular show. Vellum is my favorite architecture exhibition of the year, because we take so much pride in showing people just what we do.

Thanks Cal Poly Architecture for pushing me to do crazy things like this. I feel like I can make anything now. Isn't that the most empowering feeling?

Also, these photos don't come close to doing this experience justice. The grueling hours of work that went on behind the scenes are so much more meaningful than the final product. Take a look at my process video:

(Photos and videos of me by Simon Ng ♥ )

"Copper Pipe Chair" by Sophia Liu

First milestone of thesis year, check! Excited for so much more to come.