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Design a Church Chair winners announced

The winners of the Design a Church Chair! competition were announced by the Bishop of London today at an awards ceremony held at St John's Church, Hyde Park, London.

The winners in the first category, which was for students and recent graduates, who will receive £1000, wereNick Shurey and Sebastian Klawiter (University of Bath). Nick and Sebastian 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.

"We had never worked together before, and hope we'll have another opportunity."

In category two, which was for design professionals, the finalists included many of the top names in the design world. The winner was Tomoko Azumi (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."

In the third category, for seats already in production, two awards were given. One to Luke Hughes & Company for a stacking bench and one to Simon Pengelly (Chorus) for a wooden stacking chair. Nigel Shepherd of Luke Hughes commented: "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."

Simon 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."

Designs have been judged on their sympathy with historic church interiors, affordability, functionality, comfort and aesthetic merit. The ambition is for the best of these designs to go into manufacture.

The judging panel was chaired by the Rt Revd and Rt Hon Richard Chartres, Bishop of London, and included one of the country's leading furniture designer and makers, John Makepeace, architectural enthusiast and illustrator, Matthew Rice, chair of the Church Buildings Council, Anne Sloman, and Vicar of St John's, the Revd Stephen Mason.

Announcing the winners, The Rt Revd and Rt Hon Richard Chartres, Bishop of London, said: "The response to this competition has 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.

"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."

John Makepeace OBE, furniture designer and maker, 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".

Anne Sloman OBE, Chair of the Church Buildings Council, said: "The point of the competition has been to raise both the standard of chairs going into churches to replace pews, and to highlight the potential that churches have to offer the design community and those just entering the profession.  We have been thrilled with the response, which has exceeded all expectations and congratulate the winners for the skill and imagination they have brought to the design brief."

Visit the ChurchCare website for further details.



The Design a Church Chair! competition was launched in January. The first phase ended in April. The judging panel received well over 100 entries including several applications from overseas and submissions from leading designers including Sir Terence Conran. The overall quality was exceptional with designers showing great interest in the challenges set by the brief.

Short-listed finalists were invited to submit models to the exhibition and awards ceremony which has been held over the duration of Wednesday 13 and Thursday 14 June at St John's, Hyde Park, London.

Thanks to Ecclesiastical Insurance, the All Churches Trust and Howe UK who have sponsored the exhibition and the awards.

The brief:

Seats should be:
-          ergonomic,
-          sympathetic to historic interiors,
-          sufficiently robust for regular use and requiring minimal maintenance,
-          comfortable without depending on upholstery,
-          non-damaging to historic floors,
-          able to stack or fold neatly and compactly,
-          lightweight and easy to lift,
-          with the option of linking and having a book-holder, arms, and a hook or ledge for a kneeler,
-          practical for batch production.

The Judging Panel:

  • The Rt Revd and Rt Hon Richard Chartres, Bishop of London (Chair)
  • John Makepeace OBE - one of the country's leading furniture designers and makers
  • Matthew Rice - illustrator and architectural enthusiast
  • The Revd Stephen Mason - Vicar of St John's, Hyde Park
  • Anne Sloman OBE - Chair, Church Buildings Council

The finalists:

Category 1: Design a chair to retail under £100, open to students & recent graduates.

The Howe Prize

  • Ian Smith (Foundation degree, Rycotewood Furniture Centre, 2011)
  • Luke White (MA in Design, University of Plymouth, 2010)
  • Harry Owen (MA in Furniture Design, Bucks New University, 2011)
  • Nick Shurey (BSc in Architecture, University of Bath, 2010) and Sebastian Klawiter
  • Marie Blanchot (Licence and Master in Architecture, Ecole National Superieure D'architecture de Bretagne, France, 2009)

Category 2:  Design a chair to retail under £200, open to all.

The All Churches Trust Prize

Category 3:A seat (bench or chair) already in production.

The Ecclesiastical Insurance Prize


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