Iconic 1960s Coventry Chair redesigned – “we recognise that people have got heavier”

The Coventry chair, which was designed by Dick Russell for the 1962 built Coventry Cathedral, has been redesigned by furniture consultancy Luke Hughes and put back into production.

Left, a variation of the original design, and right, the new design
Left, a variation of the original design, and right, the new design

The Coventry chair, which was designed for the rebuilt Coventry Cathedral in the 1960s is to be revived, redesigned and put back into production.

The chair was originally designed by Dick Russell and the new version has been created by furniture design consultancy Luke Hughes.

The redesign is true to the original but has been strengthened – “We recognised that people have got heavier,” says Luke Hughes chief executive Nigel Shepherd.

Part of the Coventry Cathedral design project

Coventry Cathedral (also called St Michael’s Cathedral) was lost on 14 November 1940 in a World War Two bombing raid. A new cathedral designed by Basil Spence was commissioned in 1950, built on an adjacent site and consecrated on 25 May 1962.

Among the many art and design commissions within the new cathedral were a tapestry by Graham Sutherland – which is still the largest in the world – sculpture by Jacob Epstein and chairs designed by Russell.

Easily stackable, with novel joining techniques

The chair design was considered a great accomplishment, particularly for its novel joining techniques. Thousands were made for churches the world over and it was introduced to UK cathedrals including Winchester, Wells, Southwark and Hereford.

It could be stacked easily, used as a stand-alone chair or joined together to make pew-like seats. The chairs were batch produced by machine but made to look hand-made.

The original chair went out of production when the Gordon Russell company closed in the 1970s.

Dick Russell, who died in 1981 was brother of Gordon Russell, also an architect, and worked briefly for the company but continued to offer consultancy for the practice after leaving.

An iconic 1960s design – “practical and hard-wearing”

For the redesign Luke Hughes has worked on a licensing agreement with the Cotswold-based Gordon Russell Design Museum, which owns the rights to the chair.

Luke Hughes specialises in designing furniture for cathedrals and churches. Consultancy founder Luke Hughes says the original chair is an iconic 1960s design which is “beautiful in itself, practical and hard-wearing” while also passing a key test – “It minimises visual impact on the interior; so many beautiful church interiors are ruined by inappropriate furniture.”

The new chair sees the manufacturing processes upgraded and production techinques introduced that weren’t available when the chair was designed 50 years ago. Like the original it will be made of European Oak.

Luke Hughes chief executive Nigel Shepherd says: “The chair fits perfectly with the company’s central design philosophy that furniture should enhance architectural space, not embarrass it. We are already receiving significant enquiries, especially from the United States, and hope to be able to have more news about these in the coming weeks.”

The licensing agreement for the new Coventry chair will see the Gordon Russell Design Museum benefit from royalties. It will be given a small undisclosed sum according to Shepherd.

The new chair
The new chair
Rows of Coventry chairs in Coventry Cathedral
Rows of Coventry chairs in Coventry Cathedral
The original design plans
The original design plans
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