The CofE says it needed to develop a new design as ageing church pews were being replaced with chairs that weren’t comfortable enough or in keeping with their environment.
A spokesman for Church Care, the CofE’s maintenance organisation, says, ‘There had been a growing concern that whenever pews had been replaced, the replacement chairs have either been badly designed or badly made.
‘We wanted to encourage designers to give churches a broader range of options.’
Church Care ran a competition with three categories: one for students and recent graduates, one for professionals and one for a chair or bench already in production.
The professional category attracted entrants from Terence Conran, Søren Rose Studio and others, and was won by Tomoko Azumi & TNA Design Studio with the Wave design.
The ‘wave’ name refers to the effect created by the seatbacks when the chairs are lined up in rows.
Azumi says that as well as creating a design that would work well in this lined-up setting, the chair also needed to be able to stand alone and be stackable.
She says, ‘Churches now need to have flexible spaces, for services, dinners, tea parties and other events, so we needed something that would be stackable and that would be tough enough for heavy use.’
Azumi adds that the ‘timeless, austere’ design is intended to fit in with all church interiors, from Medieval to Modern.
She adds, ‘We also looked at comfort – with this design you can lean or put your elbows on the back-rest, which you might not have done with previous church chairs.’
The student category was won by Nick Shurey and Sebastian Klawiter from the University of Bath, while the in-production category was shared by Luke Hughes and Company for a stacking bench and Simon Pengelly for a wooden stacking chair.
The winners were announced by The Rt Revd and Rt Hon Richard Chartres, Bishop of London, who judged the competition on a panel which included furniture designer John Makepeace and illustrator Matthew Rice.
Bishop Chartres says, ‘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.’
It is hoped that some of the designs will be manufactured and although no agreements are in place with manufacturers, a spokesman for the church says ‘One of the beneficial results may be that designers and manufacturers get together – which in time could mean a greater range of choice for churches.’