04 January 2012
The Church of England today announces a competition for design
students, leading designers, manufacturers and contractors to
design new church seating. The Church of England is responsible for
16,000 parish churches, 12,500 of which are listed, and, as for all
developments in church buildings, aspires to the highest quality
design for new chairs.
The competition has two categories:
- Design a chair under £100 - open to students and recent
graduates (cash prize and opportunity to pitch to
- Design a seat (chair or bench) for churches - open to all.
Janet Gough, Director of the Archbishops' Council's Cathedral
and Church Buildings Division, said: "We want to encourage chair
designs to enhance the buildings they are placed in and to be
celebrated by present and future generations.
"In our experience some re-ordering schemes are being
compromised by the installation of unsuitable chairs which fail to
complement historic interiors whilst others fail to meet the
objectives of the parish in practical terms. We want to
inspire a new generation of designers and furniture makers to
engage with this issue."
Matthew Rice, illustrator and architectural enthusiast, as well
as a member of the judging panel, said: "The Victorian pews may
have been swept away to reveal the uncluttered medieval space but
too often this is ruined by indifferent or downright ugly modern
chairs. This competition will help to right the situation."
Luke Hughes, renowned church furniture designer, said:
"Designing seating for churches is less about producing a
product than it is about furnishing some of the greatest
architectural interiors of all time - it's a huge challenge to any
budding furniture designer, with enormous potential for those who
do it well."
Entries must be submitted by 30 March 2012, and
the results will be announced at an awards ceremony on 14 June at
St John's Church, Hyde Park accompanied by an exhibition of
Anne Sloman OBE, Chair of the Church Buildings Council, said:
"Increasingly congregations are exploring the opportunity for
creating a more flexible, multi-functional space in their church by
replacing their existing seating. The Church Buildings Council of
the Church of England has no fixed policy on removing pews
but judges each case on its individual merits. In many cases
the Council supports the retention of pews of high quality, but
this is not the situation everywhere. Our concern is that there is
room to improve the replacements available.
"The intention of the competition is to inspire high quality
church seating designs (both chairs and benches) that can be
retailed at an affordable price. The real challenge will be to see
whether comfort and practicality can be combined with good and new
design which is sympathetic to historic interiors."
Designs need to be:
- sympathetic to historic interiors,
- sufficiently robust for regular use requiring minimum
- comfortable without dependency on upholstery,
- workable on historic floors,
- able to stack or fold neatly and compactly,
- lightweight and easy to lift,
- practical for mass production,
- with the option of being linked, and of having a book holder
and chair arms.
Ideally, we should like to see designers specify UK manufacture
as well as sustainably and locally sourced materials.
Visit the ChurchCare website
information about the competition and for an application
The Panel includes:
- The Rt Revd and Rt Hon Richard Chartres, Bishop of London
- John Makepeace OBE - furniture designer and maker
- Matthew Rice - illustrator and architectural enthusiast
- The Revd Stephen Mason - Vicar of St John's, Hyde Park
- Anne Sloman OBE - Chair, Church Buildings Council
Criteria for Assessment:
The judging panel will assess how the designs respond to the
outline specification and how the chairs and benches would interact
within an historic ecclesiastical interior. Ultimately the winning
designs will be chosen on the basis of affordability,
functionality, comfort and aesthetic merit.
The judging panel will meet in April to produce a short-list
from the applications.
Category 1 Prize: Finalists will be invited to
pitch their designs to representatives from leading church chair
manufacturers including Luke Hughes & Co and Howe UK.
Cash honorarium for winner.
Category 2 Award: Finalists
will have time to amend their designs and to make prototypes before
the final judging day and exhibition. The winning design will be
used in our campaign to encourage parishes to seek good design in