Designing and Building Exceptional Chairs for Higher Education Institutions

Building furniture in moments of great significance is in the DNA at Thos. Moser. Over the last 45-years, we have built chairs for presidents, chairs for popes, chairs for poets, and chairs for some of the nation’s leading universities. Now, we are building not one, but 250 custom-made maple chairs, and three large atrium tables, for Harvard Business School, specifically for the highly anticipated Klarman Hall, a new auditorium-conference-convening center, which will be dedicated in October 2018. The installation augments a sizeable collection of Thos. Moser furniture that already graces a range of buildings at Harvard, from the Chao Center to the President’s Office at Harvard University.

It is an honor to know that Thos. Moser furniture resides in the halls, offices, and meeting rooms where great minds are exploring topics that may shape the future of our country and even the world.

Each year, Harvard Business School welcomes 1,800 MBA students and 10,000 executives who hone their business leadership skills at one of America’s leading schools of business. The picturesque campus is nestled alongside the Charles River in Boston. Across the water in Cambridge, rests the mothership—Harvard University, nearly 400 years old.

Considerations range from the selection of the perfect architect (Klarman was designed by the Boston-based firm William Rawn Associates), to the materials used to construct the building, to the artwork that adorns the open spaces and walls, and finally to the furniture that provides function and comfort to those who visit and engage in the space.

Asked how Harvard Business School approaches its quest for the appropriate furniture, Crispi shares, “As a client, we have pretty strong opinions about what we want and how our community is going to use it.” Crispi says decisions are often made during direct conversations between the architect, the construction firm, and Harvard Business School. “It’s a discerning triangle of people,” she laughs. When the talk turns to furniture, Crispi says the decision is based on several key factors.

“The beauty and the quality of the furniture are as paramount as performance and durability. When there are 500 people coming into a space and sitting in these chairs at least three – if not more – times per day, they have got to be comfortable and they’ve got to last.” The intangibles matter as well. The extraordinary craftmanship, how Moser works sustainably and cares about the environment, the way they source the wood and manage the trees, are all important considerations.

Because of Harvard’s longevity as an institution, Crispi notes that dependability and reliability of service from their vendors is essential. “Inevitably, we know that 20-30 years down the line, we are going to have to fix or replace something; and we look for partners with staying power who will be here in the long run,” she adds.

Before final designs are approved, the furniture is put to the test to ensure it will produce a favorable reaction from Harvard Business School students, faculty, staff, executives, and guests. “We do a lot of mock ups” says Crispi. In fact, Harvard Business School mocked up 200 chairs and created a full-fledged simulation in an indoor parking garage, employing cardboard images of people sitting in their seats to establish audience site lines, as well as what a speaker would see from the stage. The Thos. Moser chair design and upholstery were tested for functionality and comfort as well, with the team evaluating factors such as: Does the chair work for both women and men? Does a person get bruised when hitting the chair? Can a person with mobility issues get in and out easily? Can the chairs be easily cleaned? And so on. Moser’s chairs passed all of the tests.

As opening day approaches, visiting the Thos. Moser workshop in Auburn, Maine, was another important step along the path to completion of this historic project. “This trip to the workshop has been really illuminating for Jean and me,” Crispi reflected on her visit. “Moser furniture ends up in a school of business where students are educated on the many topics required in leading an organization. Our students learn how something is created and should be marketed and financed, how the supply chain works, and how one engages talented people and helps them do their best work – being at Thos. Moser today is like a microcosm of what we teach at Harvard Business School.”