The contemporary three-legged oak chair impressed judges for its sculptural form, and its strong sense of craft heritage. Over the next year, the design will be developed to production standards for installation in the newly-refurbished Weston library, part of the Bodleian Libraries, which opens in October 2014.
“The Bodleian Libraries are delighted to be working with Edward Barber and Jay Osgerby / Isokon Plus to provide a new chair for our Weston Library project,” says Richard Ovenden, Interim Bodley’s Librarian.
“The winning chair is characterised by a strong identity, creative approach, comfort and suitability for intense study and research. The competition was very strong and we would like to congratulate all shortlisted designers for their participation.”
Barber and Osgerby are known for the depth of research and intellect they invest in their projects, and their competition entry was no different. Early inspiration was drawn from their strong local knowledge of the Bodleian Library, and combined with their research from previous chair designs – most notably the Tip Ton chair for Vitra.
The pair perceived that the rear view of the chair – which would be its most visible aspect when in situ – was critical to their design concept. For this reason, a strong vertical timber forms one of the three legs – attaching to the sled base to resemble the spines of shelved books. The generous circular form of the seat frame echoes the armrest and sled base to produce a strong but remarkably light oak chair.
Edward Barber and Jay Osgerby have a successful 18-year history of working with Chris McCourt at Isokon Plus. This relationship began with table design, Loop, which was the first new piece manufactured by Isokon Plus for over 40 years, and is now in permanent museum collections at the V&A and New York’s Metropolitan museum. Since this early success, the partnership’s deep understanding and engagement with design has grown, and other collaborations – including ecclesiastical furniture designed for Portsmouth Cathedral – have followed.
UK manufacturer Isokon was set up in 1935 under Marcel Breuer, while the Weston Library was designed in the very same decade by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott. It is fitting then that the company’s winning design will be installed in this world-renowned library, which is currently being remodelled by”Wilkinson Eyre Architects to increase storage, public access and greatly improved reading facilities.
The designs, models and prototypes of runners up in the final stage of the competition; Matthew Hilton/SCP and AL_A (Amanda Levete Architects)/Herman Miller, as well as the other shortlisted participants; Hugo Eccles/Race Furniture, Michael Sodeau/Modus Furniture and t.n.a design studio/Benchmark, will be exhibited in a display at the V&A Museum in South Kensington from 13thSeptember until 17th November 2013. The exhibit will give a unique insight into the process behind the development of chairs from the best in British-based design and manufacturing.