By Tina Hilding, Voiland College of Engineering & Architecture

PULLMAN, Wash. – For much of the semester, Leah Engelhardt and Jingxian (Doris) Xie’s fellow architecture graduate students and professors had doubts about their project.

They were trying to create a modular wine rack in their furniture design class, and their colleagues thought the project’s intricate design and complex geometry were impossible: The team could achieve a digital version but not a physical model.

“They said it was not possible,’’ said Xie, “so we were going to make it happen.’’

The women created a unique and beautiful piece that was featured at a recent Washington State University research showcase and a Mom’s Weekend event.

Inspired by weaving

The wine rack, which can hold 22 bottles, looks more like art than furniture. Taking their inspiration from cloth weaving, the students created a design that allows users to store bottles both horizontally and vertically.

The designers used 3D digital modeling tools to create a lattice structure in four separate layers – first out of foam and later out of wood. They used a computer controlled machine to cut and carve the layers.

They hope to patent their design.

Twist to the story

They said the project taught them valuable lessons in pushing limits in design and manufacturing. David Drake, an adjunct faculty member in the School of Design and Construction and the fabrications lab manager, provided helpful information about using materials.

Ironically, neither Xie or Engelhardt, who are both graduating this week, have much use for their hard-earned art piece.

Engelhardt doesn’t like wine, and Xie is allergic to it.