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Canadian furniture designer Andrew Jones wins chair competition for Manhattan’s Battery Park


October 15, 2014
by Canadian Architect

The Battery, the 25-acre park at the southern tip of Manhattan, wanted a signature park chair.

It had to be light enough to move and heavy enough to withstand winds off New York Harbor. It needed to be stackable. And it had to have a fabulous design, since one of the goals, said Warrie Price, president of the Battery Conservancy, the nonprofit that supports the park, was to foster “aesthetic literacy.”

So in 2012, it announced a chair competition, which over the months has narrowed 679 entries from 15 countries down to 50 entries, then to five, and now, one.

Later today, the conservancy will announce the winner, a chair called Fleurt. The powder-coated steel chair, by Andrew Jones Design, looks like a pale blue flower, its curving petals forming the outlines of the seat, back and arms. Its smooth surface is perforated with tiny, seemingly random holes that will allow the seat to dry quickly after it rains.

Mr. Jones, 47, a furniture designer from Toronto, said he developed the idea after visiting the Battery. “I needed to see how big the oval was,” he said, referring to a new lawn that is a centrepiece of a major renovation underway in the park. “I tried to find a poetic response to how hundreds of chairs could make a special place, rather than just designing an object.”

The conservancy will award Mr. Jones $10,000 and will fabricate 300 chairs based on his design, which also calls for four hues of blue.

Since July, tens of thousands of people have sat on and studied prototypes of the five chair finalists, which included two from the United States, one from Brazil and one from Mexico. Some 3,600 people cast their vote, putting a check mark next to a photo of their favorite on a small ballot.

The crowd favourite, by far, Ms. Price said, was Fleurt. The five-member jury assembled by the conservancy also voted for the design.

On Tuesday, members of the public were still testing the chairs, which were arrayed on artificial turf in the courtyard of Castle Clinton, the historic fort in the park. “That one is more comfortable,” said Alan Colquhoun, a tourist from Scotland, pointing at Fleurt. But the petal arms, he said, were awkward. “I don’t like the way it forces you to make a decision with your arms,” he said.

His wife, Angela, disagreed. “I’m not bothered by the arm rests,” she said. “It’s the most comfortable, and I like its more organic design.”

The voting proved so popular that when ballots occasionally ran out, people wrote their selection on random scraps of cardboard, business cards, even a piece of bark from a London plane tree. One voter, using a felt-tip pen on a restaurant business card, urged: “Only ‘Fleurt.’ The others are physically painful.”

Mr. Jones has a Bachelor of Architecture degree from the University of Toronto and a Master of Arts in furniture design from the Royal College of Art in London, and has taught at the University of Pennsylvania and the University of Toronto. While he usually does not enter contests, he found the one for the so-called Battery Chair irresistible. “There aren’t many competitions where you get the opportunity to design one piece of furniture for such a high-profile space,” he said.

He had reservations about the flower motif. “This is the most fun or pop idea I’ve ever done, but it felt right for the space,” he said. “I thought: ‘OK, I’m going to design a flower. It sounds a little corny, but I’m going to make it elegant and execute it perfectly.’ ”

Ms. Price, who had remained neutral throughout the competition, said she liked the way the winning design echoed the gardens in the park, including one planted in remembrance of the victims of September 11. “That nature and flora would inspire a designer to take that as a theme was gratifying to us,” she said.

For detailed information on Andrew Jones’s Fleurt Chair, please visit www.thebattery.org/projects/chair-competition/top-5-designs/fleurt/

From The New York Times, October 15, 2014.




Canadian Architect

Canadian Architect

Canadian Architect is a magazine for architects and related professionals practicing in Canada. Canada's only monthly design publication, Canadian Architect has been in continuous publication since 1955.
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