At the tip of Lower Manhattan, a three-acre green space in the 22-acre Battery Park may soon be home to a field of flower-shaped seats, a sea of brightly colored rocking chairs, or a plethora of pivotable chaise lounges.
Last summer, the Battery Conservancy Americas launched the “Draw Up a Chair” design competition, the first of its kind from the New York City Parks Department, calling for a moveable, outdoor chair to fill the oval lawn of Battery Green. The new park is currently under construction as part of rebuild efforts after last year’s Hurricane Sandy devastated the area. From a previously condensed pool of 50, the Conservancy has chosen the top five proposals, from firms spanning four countries. Each unique design is stackable, weatherproof, and made of recycled materials.
Designing for a specific space can be a challenge, but try designing a chair predestined to become a contemporary statement in the newly-refurbished Weston Library, part of the Bodleian Libraries at Oxford, which has commissioned only its third new chair in 400 years. Earlier this year, three partnerships—Amanda Levete and Herman Miller, Barber Osgerby and Isokon Plus, and Matthew Hilton and SCP Ltd—were shortlisted to compete for the prestigious prize, which has officially been awarded to Edward Barber and Jay Osgerby with Isokon, for their low, round-backed design.
Goetz Composites fabricated the Granoff Collection of modular furniture for a new Diller, Scofidio + Renfro-designed building at Brown University.
Brown University’s Granoff Center for the Creative Arts, completed by Diller, Scofidio + Renfro in 2010, was a direct result of the institution’s studies on how students and faculty interact today. Since most interdisciplinary exchanges were taking place in stairwells over classrooms, the architects designed a central escalier with five landings where the school’s population could meet among rotating student installations. One year after the building opened, the users realized that something was missing on the escalier: a place to sit. To rectify the situation, graduate students from the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) collaborated with Brown alumni to design a unique collection of furniture named for the building’s patrons, Perry and Marty Granoff.
The alumni designers—Taylor McKenzie-Veal, Scot Bailey, Ian Stell, and Yumi Yoshida—crafted a line of modular furniture that includes a sofa, a chair, and a table that doubles as a stool. The line caters to local industry in materiality; namely the state’s maritime history. “The boating and composite expertise in Rhode Island has a long-standing history of excellence and [we] consulted and collaborated with a local composites and engineering firm while developing and prototyping the design,” said McKenzie-Veal.
Dan Rubinstein, editor-in-chief of Surface magazine, is curating a series of lectures at the Museum of Arts and Design evaluating the future of American furniture design. Dubbed “The Home Front: American Furniture Now,” the five-lecture series begins this Thursday, January 13 as leading furniture retailers present their views on the difficulty selling American design. In March, AN‘s own executive editor Julie Iovine will lead a roundtable panel called “Drafted” on the importance of American design for architects and designers.