AcademicsFeb 15, 2024

updated Mar 26, 2024

Sitting Down on the Job

Cora ’24 and the "Triair"

After more than a year of research, development, prototyping, and testing, Cora ’24’s vision for a new type of chair has taken human-sized shape!

Introducing the “Triair,” an environmentally sustainable, comfy, and pretty cool-looking(!) chair built entirely with equilateral triangles — 13 of them, to be exact. Designed and prototyped by Cora, this full-size iteration of the Triair came to be with the help of MHS master carpenter Kyle Smith, who cut wooden panels to make the prototype.

(Cora ’24)

“I found triangles are stable shapes and can form various structures, so I wanted to create a chair with a triangle shape and that fit the human body structure, but that was also comfortable and environmentally sustainable,” explains Cora, whose inspiration came while taking an online course in Modern Design and Creation of Artifacts, by Wang Shouzhi, on Bilibili. “The course introduced modern designs, and the professor talked a lot about chair design, which I found interesting, and I also saw a lot of inspiring designs.”

So, Cora began investigating materials for her own chair. She researched common, everyday materials such as wood, plastic, and metal, and more sustainable options, including mushroom leather. Among the inspirations for her interest in environmental sustainability was a middle school lecture about “sponge city,” a Chinese urban planning model that collects and recycles rainwater, rather than relying on traditional drainage.

Ultimately, Cora chose cork, because it is highly sustainable, suitable for use outdoors, and can withstand pressure. Triangles appealed because of the options they presented.

“They can be used to form many different kinds of shapes, and once they are connected, they are both flexible and stable,” Cora explains. Her earliest designs were built from origami, trying different configurations of triangles to see what might work best. As she finished each version, Cora applied weights to the origami, to test how well the design held up, eventually choosing one of the versions and moving onto 3D digital models.

(Cora ’24)

However, she found the concept challenging to pull off. For the prototype, she planned to use hinges to connect different triangle pieces, but the thickness of the wooden panels, unlike origami paper, doesn’t allow the edges of those pieces to fit well with each other, if the edges don’t have certain angles. Troubleshooting as she went along, Cora plans to refine her design, working out challenges she discovered while making the prototype, including how to make the pieces fit better together.

(Cora ’24)

“It’s not perfect, and I still have to test to see if cork actually works for this structure, but it was fun to do for the first time,” says Cora, who is considering a college major that allows her to combine passions in design and biology. “I think it has an interesting shape and a nice style, and I am glad that I put the effort in to see it through.”