Industrial Design Students Design and Build a Conference Table for Cater Hall

Industrial Design Students Design and Build a Conference Table for Cater Hall

It’s a one-of-kind conference table. Not only is it designed specifically for the Cater Hall Conference Room, it’s also designed with materials from Cater Hall itself.

“I wanted to somehow capture the historic nature of the materials used to construct Cater Hall as we were undergoing the renovation process,” says Melissa Baumann. “I though a unique piece of furniture would be a special reminder of the centennial anniversary of this former president’s house.” Baumann, who is Assistant Provost and Director of the Honors College housed in Cater Hall, turned to industrial design professor Tin Man Lau and his students from the School of Industrial + Graphic Design for the design and fabrication of a conference table with reclaimed material from Cater Hall that would possess characteristics of Cater and match its style of architecture.

Prof. Lau explains how this process began, “After we saw all the salvaged materials, I thought it would be nice to keep something that is recognizable as part of the building to be displayed with the table. I suggested that we use the windows and some of the pine panels as part of the tabletop. Hardwood was used for the frame and base.” In a voluntary class, six undergraduate industrial design students developed different ideas in spring 2016. Ann Gardner, Emily Louie, Minxiang Luo, Micah Maples, Hannim Song, and Kaitlin York designed and built scale models and eventually constructed a 3D computer model.

In fall 2016, Prof. Lau recruited another voluntary class to fabricate the table, but they ended having to redesign it instead. “The architect decided that it had to be 12 feet long instead of 14 feet long,” said Lau “Although it was only two feet different, we had to re-design the whole structure and change the table top design because of the existing window sizes. After the reconfiguration of all the details, the table construction was started.” By this time, most of the first group of students had graduated so Andrew Edge, Georgia Foutch, Katharine Galpin, Hunter Haldky, and Justin Murphy joined Minxiang Luo to begin work on constructing the table that was now behind schedule.

Graduate students Jiaxuan Ma, Haoran Xue and Ying Yan took on the project as a work and class assignment in spring 2017 and worked with Minxiang Luo to complete the table. “It was quite a great learning experience for the students,” Lau explains. “Although it took longer than we expected— there were points where we wanted to give up—the students strived to the end. Two days before finishing it, the stain was not acting right so they sanded it all off and re-stained it. Quite a dedicated group of students!”

Baumann agrees, “The students were great to work with and while I think it was a bigger project than any of them appreciated at the time, I think they’re all proud of what they designed and built. I know that I’m pleased with this unique table and think that people will enjoy this for years to come. I especially like that there is a small plaque under the table that memorializes their names so in the next hundred years, people will appreciate the talent and work of these industrial design students.”

Auburn’s industrial design program is one of the oldest industrial design programs in the nation and the only NASAD-accredited program in Alabama. It has been ranked in the top ten over the last ten years by DesignIntelligence in its annual survey, “America’s Best Architecture and Design Schools” and included among the “The Top Industrial Design Schools in North America” by AZURE magazine. Industrial design is in the School of Industrial and Graphic Design in the College of Architecture, Design and Construction.

Related people:
Tin-Man Lau