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The birth of an icon
In the spring of 2018, the New York Public Library (NYPL) announced its intention to commission a new and highly anticipated reading chair for the library system’s largest and busiest branch, the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Library (SNFL). After a complete renovation, SNFL will service more than 1.7 million visits annually and an annual circulation of 2 million items.
An iconic institution
Founded in 1895, the New York Public Library is a premier provider of free education and information for the people of New York City and beyond. One of the largest public library systems in the United States, the NYPL has 92 neighborhood branches. The first (and last) time the NYPL commissioned a reading chair was in 1911, when the landmark Stephen A. Schwarzman Building at Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street originally opened its doors, and the design is still in use in the renowned Rose Reading room today.
The design of the new NYPL Branch Chair needed to be just as enduring as the original. In addition, the library had three new design requests; the chair needed to be durable, easy to clean, and comfortable for patrons to enjoy for several hours. And when Thos. Moser was awarded the job in the summer of 2018; we wasted no time getting to work.
A Collaborative approach
More than ten years ago, we purchased a Rose Reading Room Chair. This archetypal form served as a historical guide for the new NYPL Branch chair. The library had three new design requests; the chair needed to be durable, easy to clean, and comfortable for patrons to enjoy for several hours. In a change-up of traditional roles, each architect involved presented their vision for the branch libraries and the new chair. To solicit feedback, the design team at Moser assembled multiple sketches of different chair forms into a presentation to gauge the reaction of the ‘style’ of the chair the committee liked. This process distilled hundreds of designs into four options, and after another round of feedback, we began working in wood.
“There are specific parameters you must abide by when designing a chair – the human form dictates a lot of the foundational design elements,” explains Aaron Moser. “And creating a chair that can remain relevant for the next 100 years and beyond only adds to the challenge. You know you’ve succeeded when the final result transcends time and space, and it sits comfortably in a broad range of environments, from public libraries to home offices and boardrooms. The NYPL Branch Chair does precisely that.”
Finding patience and fortitude
In 2020, the first 200 chairs were ready to be installed in the newly renovated SNFL. When the grand opening of the branch, to coincide with the library’s 125th anniversary, was delayed, we found ourselves drawing on the tenants of the world-renown mascots, Patience and Fortitude. Today, we are proud to finally celebrate the grand opening of the new Stavros Niarchos Foundation Library and are incredibly honored to have been called upon to create an iconic chair that will serve the great public institution and the communities it serves for the next 100 years.
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