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New seating stands out, says Chartres at chair awards

by
20 June 2012

by Madeleine Davies

Are you sitting comfortably? The chairs designed (left) by Nick Shurey and Sebastian Klawiter, and (right) by Tomoko Azumi

Are you sitting comfortably? The chairs designed (left) by Nick Shurey and Sebastian Klawiter, and (right) by Tomoko Azumi

“IF THOSE pews reclined, and the priests gave the football scores, I’d go to church every Sunday.” So said the American comedian George Lopez.

While this vision may not quite have been realised, the winners of the Church of England’s competi­tion Design a Church Chair! have at least recognised that there is a great deal to be said for a comfy seat on a Sunday morning. Launched in Janu­ary, and judged by a panel chaired by the Bishop of London, the Rt Revd Richard Chartres, the competition received more than 100 entries from budding and professional designers, includ­ing Sir Terence Conran.

They faced a challenging brief: to combine “sympathy with historic church interiors” with affordability (the chair should cost no more than £200), comfort, and aesthetic merit. The ambition is for the best of the designs to go into manufacture.

The winners in the first category, students and recent graduates, who will receive £1000, were Nick Shurey and Sebastian Klawiter, of the University of Bath.

They were “ecstatic” to receive their prize at an awards ceremony held at St John’s, Hyde Park, on Thursday of last week. “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.”

Tomoko Azumi, of the TNA Design Studio, based in east London, took the prize for design profes­sionals. She was “pleased to have had this opportunity to help en­hance the community’s use of such buildings”.

Two awards were given in the category for seats already in produc­tion, both of them to London-based designers: Luke Hughes and Company, for a stacking bench; and Simon Pengelly, of Chorus, for a wooden stacking chair.

“Too much church furniture is poorly designed and made,” Mr Pengelly said. “This whole competi­tion has been inspiring in what it is trying to achieve in opening up awareness of the importance of design excellence.”

Announcing the winners, Bishop Chartres said: “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.”

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