Awards for church chair designs
Published 16 June 2012
The Bishop of London this week presented awards to designers for their stylish and innovative church chair designs.
The winners of the Church of England's church chair design competition were announced by Dr Richard Chartres at a ceremony held at St John's Church in Hyde Park, London.
In addition to the bishop, the judging panel included one of the country's leading furniture designers and makers, John Makepeace, illustrator Matthew Rice, chair of the Church Buildings Council, Anne Sloman, and vicar of St John's, the Rev Stephen Mason.
The winners of the students and recent graduates categories were Nick Shurey and Sebastian Klawiter, who will take away £1,000.
They said: “It was a real honour to have been involved, and we’re ecstatic to have won – it was a real surprise.
"We spent much time on establishing our starting-point and then it was a last-minute dash to get our initial design submitted by the deadline.
"A lot of effort then went into working up the finished design."
They added: “We had never worked together before, and hope we’ll have another opportunity.”
The second category was for design professionals, with the award going to Tomoko Azumi at the TNA Design Studio.
She said: “It was a real privilege to have taken part in the competition, using my knowledge of chair design in the context of church buildings ancient and modern. I am really pleased to have had this opportunity to help enhance the community’s use of such buildings.”
The final category acknowledged the quality of design in seats already in production.
Nigel Shepherd, Luke Hughes & Company, picked up an award for their stacking bench, while the second award in the category went to Simon Pengelly, of Chorus, for his wooden stacking chair.
Mr Shepherd said: “I am thrilled to have this design recognised in such a way. It is brilliant the way this competition has drawn attention to the importance of good design for furniture in churches.”
Mr Pengelly commented: “I am honoured to have won in this category. Too much church furniture is poorly designed and made. This whole competition has been inspiring in what it is trying to achieve in opening up awareness of the importance of design excellence.”
Dr Chartres said the response to the competition had been extraordinary.
"There is a need to open up our churches more and more as community hubs for a great variety of purposes.
"We’re in this for permanency, for eternity, so our furnishings, while being flexible, have to signal something of that as well.
He continued: “Our aims were very simple. We wanted to engage designers with the potential that exists in a very flourishing church context; we wanted to help parishes consider very carefully how they replace pews when their removal has been agreed; we wanted to encourage the highest possible standards of design in our churches; and we wanted to widen the range of affordable as well as well-designed chairs.”
Designs were judged on their sympathy with historic church interiors, affordability, functionality, comfort and aesthetic merit.
The Church hopes that the best of the designs from the competition will go into manufacture.
Mr Makepeace said: "Furniture design is about linking people to the building they’re in. As society has become more sedentary, we have become dependent on seating that provides better support than a flat seat and back. Given the quality of our churches, we need chairs which are comfortable, classically simple and enduring.”
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