IT will be the chair of chairs for the library of libraries.

That is what the judges are hoping for in a competition to find a new chair for Oxford’s Bodleian Library.

The winning design will be just the third chair in 400 years to be commissioned by the prestigious institution and will be used in the Weston Library in Broad Street, which is currently undergoing a £75m redevelopment and is due to be completed late 2014.

A trio of designs have been shortlisted from 60 entries – they are from architect Amanda Levete, principal of Amanda Levete Architects, Barber Osgerby, designers of the Olympic torch, and Matthew Hilton, former head of furniture design at Habitat.

They will be on display at the London Design Festival at London’s Victoria and Albert Museum from today. Chris Fletcher, keeper of Special Collections at the Bodleian, said: “The competition has drawn designs from an exciting array of designers and manufacturers from across the UK.

“The three shortlisted chairs were the most successful in meeting the wide range of requirements for our readers. This exciting new chair will become an key element of the newly-refurbished Weston Library.”

There will be about 250 produced for use in three reading rooms and they will be used daily by readers from the University of Oxford and from around the world.

Readers will be able to access books and journals including four of the surviving copies of the Magna Carta, two Shakespeare First Folios and the original manuscript of Frankenstein.

The last chair was produced by Giles Gilbert Scott in 1936 and the first Bodleian chair was developed in 1756.

Judges include Richard Ovenden, interim librarian, Bodleian Libraries, Prof Martin Roth, director, The Victoria and Albert Museum, Sir Kenneth Grange CBE, leading industrial designer, Prof Jeremy Myerson, director of Design at the Helen Hamlyn Centre for Design, Tom Dyckhoff, architecture and design critic, author and BBC Culture Show host, and Jim Eyre, director, Wilkinson Eyre Architects.

Prof Roth said: “This chair will be the chair of chairs, for the library of libraries.”

The winner of the chair competition is due to be announced on Wednesday, September 18.

The Weston Library will open its doors to readers in October 2014 following the revamp by Wilkinson Eyre Architects.


  • Amanda Levete and Herman Miller. Amanda Levete is a former partner of Future Systems, which designed the Selfridges building at the Bull Ring in Birmingham. Herman Miller is the manufacturer of the chair and has its international headquarters in Chippenham.
  • Barber Osgerby and Isokon Plus. Founded by Edward Barber and Jay Osgerby, who’s from Witney and designed the Olympic torch for London 2012. Isokon Plus, based in London, is the manufacturer of the chair.
  • Matthew Hilton and SCP Ltd. British designer Matthew Hilton is the former head of furniture at Habitat and based in London. The manufacturer is London-based SCP Ltd.