May 14, 2010

Fine and functional furniture

A mere four months ago, Architecture 490 students in Professor Leighton Liu’s class didn’t even know how to work the tools used to build and shape furniture and light fixtures. But you’d never guess that from the extraordinary exhibit in the Hagio and Irene Shen Architecture Gallery (room 204) in the Architecture Building.  On display are various pieces at a high level of complexity and beauty.

But are they functional?  “They’re absolutely functional,” assures Liu, who will retire at the end of the month after nearly 40 years at UH Mānoa. “All of the pieces reflect spectacular effort and creativity. They move, they have water, they do all kinds of things.”

Take the “A Better Tomorrow” piece created by student Shau Yu Lin, who built a rainbow-hue lighting fixture featuring gel-like crystal soil that feed nutrients to plants for up to a year-and-a-half.  Lin experimented with the colors and came up with a concept that shows life in the form of a plant—from its roots to the branches.

Student Howard Shek also depended on nature for inspiration. He built a light fixture representing the sun, and used water with a pump to project rays across the wall. It took numerous tries to get it right, but Shek loved going through the process of problem-solving and working through each challenge.

According to Liu, all of the students spent numerous hours outside of class to perfect their pieces. So it’s not surprising that Liu, the 1996 winner of a UH Regents’ Medal for Excellence, was with them every step of the way—advising, guiding, helping.  Happy retirement, Professor.

The furniture and light exhibit will be on display until Thursday, May 20, and is open weekdays from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.  Contact Professor Liu at 956-8311 or leighton@hawaii.edu.  For more on the School of Architecture, see  http://www.arch.hawaii.edu/site/index.php.  For more on UH Mānoa, see http://manoa.hawaii.edu/.

Howard Shek’s light creation utilizes a pump to create sun rays on the wall and ceiling.

Howard Shek’s light creation utilizes a pump to create sun rays on the wall and ceiling.

This “A Beautiful Tomorrow” light fixture by Shau Yu Lin is great for people without a green thumb, since plants can thrive in the crystal soil for long periods of time.

This “A Beautiful Tomorrow” light fixture by Shau Yu Lin is great for people without a green thumb, since plants can thrive in the crystal soil for long periods of time.

Architecture Professor Leighton Liu, who will retire at the end of the month, will miss interacting with his creative students.

Architecture Professor Leighton Liu, who will retire at the end of the month, will miss interacting with his creative students.