For the third time in its history, the Bodleian library has commissioned a new chair design, after the winner of a prestigious competition was announced.
After an initial 60 designers had been whittled down to just three, the award went to Edward Barber OBE & Jay Osgerby OBE with manufacturer Isokon Plus. The chair will be developed over the next year to meet industry standards and will be launched in October 2014 alongside the newly refurbished Weston Library.
The chosen design is a three-legged oak chair which the Bodleian described as “a contemporary response to the brief which combines a strong sense of craft heritage, sculptural form and complex reader requirements”. Although made from wood, the chair has been cleverly designed so as to allow tilting backwards and forwards, for those readers who are so inclined.
According to the Bodleian, “The duo [Barber and Osgerby] identified the rear view of the chair as critical to the concept of the design – this is the aspect that will be most visible when the chair is in situ. Thus a strong vertical timber, echoing the spines of books on shelves, forms one of the three legs that attaches to the sled base. The generous circular form of the seat frame is echoed in the armrest and sled base – producing a strong but remarkably light oak chair.”
The first chair designed for the Bodleian was a wooden Windsor chair in 1756, and cost 8s 6d per chair. 180 years later, Giles Gilbert Scott won the competition for a new chair and designed a leather-clad bucket one.
At the moment, the Bodleian uses a mishmash of chairs, from a range of eras and in a variety of styles. This new chair looks to bring unity to a wildly disparate seating system.
The news has had a positive response among students who agree that the current stock of chairs is too uncertain. Alice Rickett, a second year Classics and English student, commented, “Chairs are more important than we think. For too long, the Bodleian seems to have been following a less than vigorous chair selection policy, but hopefully this is now at an end. Now, chairs are the least of our worries, which is how it should be.”