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Tangen Hall will be opening in the fall.

Credit: Raymon Shi

Penn Wharton Entrepreneurship is hosting a furniture competition to design the lobby of Tangen Hall, a hub for students who want to develop start-ups set to open in fall 2020.

The Tangen Hall Furniture Competition, spearheaded by Wharton's Vice Dean of Entrepreneurship and Innovation Karl Ulrich and the Venture Lab, allows individuals and teams to submit furniture designs for the lobby of Tangen Hall, which cost $46 million to build and will be located at the intersection of 40th and Samson streets. At least 10 designs will be selected for actual creation, of which at least six must be Penn-affiliated submissions. Cash prizes of $1,000 are awarded to each winning team or individual applicant, according to the competition's website.

Ulrich said he created this contest because he wanted the Penn community to play an innovative role in the building's construction, especially because Tangen Hall is being built for entrepreneurs.

"We hadn't figured out what to do with furniture for Tangen Hall, but we wanted to do something distinctive and unusual," he said. "After kicking around with the idea of hiring professionals, we decided, 'wouldn't it be fun if we had a competition?'" 

According to the competition's website, submissions must have a physical prototype made out of Baltic Birch, a poster, and digital design files. Each submission will go through the Selection Committee and People's Choice rounds.

The selection committee will be made up of three to four judges, likely Penn alumni, who are interested in furniture design, Ulrich said. During the People's Choice round, anyone from the Penn community will be able to submit their preferences, most likely through an online survey.

Before formal submissions are due on April 1, there will be an optional feedback round where participants can submit sketches or basic prototypes and receive an evaluation from Ulrich himself.

Anyone interested is welcome to enter a submission, regardless of Penn affiliation.

The furniture design entries will be judged on real-life functionality and aesthetic, Ulrich said.

"We want the furniture to work, so we're looking for beautiful and interesting objects that are highly functional," Ulrich said.

College of Liberal and Professional Studies junior Erik Fuller said he had not heard a lot about this competition, but he is passionate about furniture design and is excited to apply. Before transferring to Penn, Fuller attended an arts school where he studied fine arts.

"I've studied sculpture before and like making things out of materials like metal and wood," Fuller said. "I feel this is a great way to tie [entrepreneurship] in [with] the creative people on this campus."

Fuller said he plans to craft a winning piece by making his design as functional as possible without sacrificing visual aesthetics. 

"Any piece of the design world, anything that has an aesthetic reality to it, can change someone's entire perspective of the space, whether it’s a trashcan or skyscraper," Fuller said. "However, even if it looks cool, it needs to be functional, because people have to live with these things."

Although this contest is open to all, Wharton first-year Julia Deng, who is interested in marketing and design, said she likes the idea but does not think she has enough experience or time to enter. 

"I think because [the contest] seems more of a niche thing, I wouldn’t see many students particularly interested," she said. "I think if I were to do it, I’d definitely need the time available in my schedule and the passion."

The winning designs will be installed in August and displayed at the opening of Tangen Hall in the fall.