In September 2012 a UK-wide competition was launched to design a new chair for the refurbishment of the Weston Library, part of the historic Bodleian Libraries in Oxford. A call for entries resulted in a strong response of over 60 expressions of interest from designers and manufacturers.
Developing a piece for a historic location as significant as this must be a treat for designers. The context must afford great opportunities, but with it also considerable constraints.
Designed by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott in the 1930s, the building is currently being remodelled by Wilkinson Eyre Architects to create a spacious, bright, state of the art facility, while retaining original features such as door frames, light fittings, desks, typography and clocks.
- create high-quality storage for the valuable special collections, including the rare and unique manuscripts, books and maps
- develop the Libraries’ space for the support of advanced research
- expand public access to our great treasures through new exhibition galleries and other facilities
The competition’s stated aim is to create a chair that will join a historic range of bespoke furniture for the library, and be a future design classic – a seat for readers for decades to come. It will follow in the footsteps of the 1756 Curator’s Chair, one of the earliest custom-made chairs for the Bodleian Libraries (below), and a piece designed by architect Gilbert Scott in 1936.
Six designer/manufacturer partnerships were selected to proceed to the next stage of the competition, and finally three partnerships were chosen to go forward and create a working prototype to be displayed and judged in September 2013 at the V&A.
The three shortlisted designer/manufacturer partnerships are:
- Edward Barber & Jay Osgerby, & Isokon Plus
- Matthew Hilton & SCP Ltd
- AL_A (Amanda Levete Architects) & Herman Miller
The winning design will be announced during London Design Festival at the V&A and will proceed to production and installation in the new Weston library at Oxford University in 2014/2015.