A stellar shortlist announced for Bodleian Libraries Chair Competition

May 2013

Bodleian Libraries chair competitionIn September 2012 a UK-wide competition was launched to design a new chair for 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. After much deliberation, six award-winning designer/manufacturer partnerships have been selected to proceed to the next stage of the competition.

Shortlisted partnerships in alphabetical order are:

  • AL_A & Herman Miller
  • Barber Osgerby & Isokon Plus
  • Hugo Eccles & Race Furniture
  • Matthew Hilton & SCP Ltd
  • Michael Sodeau Partnership & Modus Furniture
  • TNA Design Studio & Benchmark
The competition judges include: Sarah Thomas, Bodley's Librarian; Richard Ovenden, Deputy to Bodley's Librarian; Professor Martin Roth, Director of the V&A; Sir Kenneth Grange CBE, leading industrial designer; Jeremy Myerson, Director and Professor of Design at the Helen Hamlyn Centre for Design; Tom Dyckhoff, architecture and design critic, author and Culture Show host; Jim Eyre of Wilkinson Eyre Architects and Professor Elizabeth Leach, Faculty of Music, University of Oxford.

Richard Ovenden, Deputy to Bodley's Librarian, said: 'We were delighted with the quality of applications and the wealth of talent and experience that was presented. As the renovation of the Weston Library progresses over the next two years the competition creates a unique opportunity to design a new chair that will become part of the Bodleian's heritage.'

The chair is destined to become an iconic contemporary statement in the refurbishment of the Weston Library, part of the Bodleian Libraries, which will open its doors in Autumn 2014. Designed by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott in the 1930s, the building is currently being remodelled by Wilkinson Eyre Architects to create a state of the art facility for this world-renowned library, creating increased storage, public access and greatly improved facilities for readers. The scheme embraces many original features such as door frames, light fittings, desks, typography and clocks, but breathes new life into the library with space, light and modern facilities. The competition aims 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, reproductions of which are being made today.

As V&A director Martin Roth commented: 'This chair will be the chair of chairs, for the library of libraries'.

The competition will see the shortlisted partnerships develop a design over the next few months to meet the detailed brief that includes comfort, usability, practicality, longevity and style. After the submission of designs, a maximum of three entrants will be chosen to go forward and create a working prototype. The winning design will be judged and announced in September 2013.


AL_A is the architectural practice led by Amanda Levete: www.ala.uk.com
Barber Osgerby is the design duo led by Edward Barber and Jay Osgery: www.barberosgerby.com
Hugo Eccles Design Office
is led by Hugo Eccles: www.hugoeccles.com
Matthew Hilton:
Michael Sodeau Partnership:
TNA Design Studio
is led by Tomoko Asumi: www.tnadesignstudio.co.uk
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