Luke Hughes lectures at the Institute of Classical Architecture in New York

Luke Hughes lectures at the Institute of Classical Architecture in New York

November 2013

Luke Hughes was back in the USA in November, giving lectures to the Institute of Classical Architecture in New York, as well as to other architects in Connecticut.

The trip presented an opportunity to progress a growing number of projects in institutional, religious and academic buildings (including Yale and Harvard Universities) and also to promulgate Luke Hughes’ views about the importance of sustainable design. The gist of this argument focusses around the idea that ‘The longer a building and its furniture stay relevant, the longer the carbon stays locked up. The longer it stays locked up, the less contribution to CO2 emissions. We design for long life, 30-50 years minimum. Long life = locked up carbon; it’s as simple as that. We owe it to the planet.’

The University College Birmingham

The University College Birmingham

October 2013

The University College Birmingham have just commissioned a set of ceremonial furniture for their degree-giving ceremonies, first used on 30 September 2013 in Symphony Hall, Birmingham.

The furniture include three ceremonial chairs, emblazoned with a silver enamel version of the newly-granted arms, and two cable-managed lecterns sporting the same arms, exquisitely carved and painted by Armenian carver, Georgy Mkrtichian. The enamel discs were, appropriately, made in the Jewellry Quarter Birmingham by Toye & Co.

The projects follows similar commissions for Brunel, Chester, the Open and Liverpool Universities, as well as Emmanuel College and Peterhouse (in Cambridge), and Merton and St Hugh’s Colleges (in Oxford).


Yale University

Yale University

September 2013

Yale University in the USA have commissioned Luke Hughes® to develop designs for the public area seating in the new campus for the Yale School of Management. The new building, to be known as the Edward P. Evans Hall has been designed by Foster + Partners and is due to be opened in January 2014. In terms of British design at Yale, this follows on from the new Kroon School of Forestry, designed by Hopkins Architects.

For Luke Hughes®, the project exemplifies our core activity: bridging furniture and architecture through design.

The Yale project follows on from the delivery of our first order to Harvard University in March 2013, the completion of the design work for the Beit Simchat Torah synagogue in New York City and a number of other USA-based academic, ecclesiastical and institutional projects that are on the drawing board.

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Highgate School Library

Highgate School Library

August 2013

Highgate School, founded in 1565, is coming to the end of converting ‘Big School’ to mixed use, combining a new library and learning resources centre, whilst retaining the opportunity for music recitals, large meetings, examinations and social gatherings.

‘Big School’, together with the chapel, were designed in 1865 by Frederick Pepys Cockerell (1833-78), a scion of a noble breed of architects and former pupil of both Matthew Digby Wyatt and Philip Hardwick (architect to Lincoln’s Inn and Goldsmiths’ Hall). The original function of the Big School building was one large school room with a library area at the upper ground level, and four separate classrooms below the school room on the lower ground level, together with a brick vaulted space known as the undercroft, which is below the original library area.

The architects, Clague, have designed a new mezzanine floor and perimeter gallery, working within the Victorian shell in a respectful and contemporary way. Luke Hughes® have been commissioned to design and supply all the furniture.

The project follows a string of academic library and archive projects for Luke Hughes®, notably at Oundle School, Charterhouse, St Hugh’s College (Oxford), Pembroke College (Cambridge) Cambridge University Library, the Supreme Court Library (London), the Supreme Court Library (Edinburgh), Birmingham University Muirhead Tower Library, Eton College prints and drawings room, the Fitzwilliam Museum prints and drawings room the Institute of Criminology.

The project/library will be completed for the new academic year.

Increasing Dining Capacity at Trinity Hall

Increasing Dining Capacity at Trinity Hall

July 2013

Luke Hughes® have just been commissioned by Trinity Hall, Cambridge, to redesign their dining furniture, as part of the general refurbishment of the Hall. The challenge has been to increase the viable seating by 30% without compromising operations for the catering staff and whilst retaining the intimate feel of the space.

The college has, for many years, used Athena folding tables and FOLIO stacking chairs in the Graham Storey Room and the Fellows’ Dining Room - they have ordered more of the same to continue the theme.

Luke Hughes® have now advised more than 20 academic dining halls on how to make the most of the space available without compromising the architecture, both in traditional and modern settings, including, in 2012, Churchill College.

Exeter Cathedral

Exeter Cathedral

June 2013

Luke Hughes® have recently completed a number of major projects for Exeter Cathedral, including a new Sacristy, two new Song Schools (one each for boys and girls) and a new Choir Library.

Working closely with the senior clergy and Jonathan Saunders, from the Wells office of architects Caroe & Partners, the furniture brief included vestment presses,
cope cupboards, storage for altar linen and all the paraphenalia of a busy cathedral sacristy, library bookcases, choir music library, choir desks.

Amongst the bigger challenges were the need to arrange the choir around a piano within the confines of the medieval footprint of the building.

Exeter Cathedral was badly damaged by bombing on May 1942. Repairs were supervised in the 1940s by Stephen Dykes-Bower and the library reinstated in the former west wing of the Bishop’s Palace. It was this building that has been recently converted for housing the archives, sacrisity and song schools.

Luke Hughes® have also designed furniture for choir libraries and song schools at Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, as well as for Ely and Bristol cathedrals.


St John’s College, Cambridge

St John’s College, Cambridge

May 2013

St John’s College, Cambridge has, for more than 20 years, employed Luke Hughes® to design, advise and furnish important rooms amidst the college’s astonishing collection of architectural gems, both old and new.

Over the last four years, the college has been gradually refurbishing the Cripps Building, which houses a collection of 20 staircases of accommodation rooms, originally designed by Powell & Moya and built 1966-7. The building is now considered one of the triumphs of 1960s architecture and was listed in 2009. After half a century, the building (and its furniture) had seen better days so the challenge has been to retain the original design intent, refurbishing where possible and making new where necessary. The second phase of the programme is now approaching completion.

Sir Philip Powell (1921-2003), the principal architect of the original building, had been enormously supportive to Luke Hughes in the early 1980s and was a regular visitor the original Covent Garden workshop.

Move Avenues in New England

Move Avenues in New England

April 2013

Luke Hughes was back in the USA in April 2013, not least to progress the designs for specialist bench-seating being developed for a new synagogue in Manhattan, for the Congregation Beit Simchat Torah. The new synagogue is designed by Architecture Research Office, based in Manhattan.

April was also the month that saw delivery of the first order from Harvard University (see and the progression of a number of other institutional projects in the US, especially in the educational sector.

Luke Hughes, who has long associations with the American Hardwoods Export Council, has been intrigued by the frustration of architects in the USA, where the furniture industry appears to be dominated by manufacturing giants and catalogue products; architects of important public buildings say they find it extremely difficult to find furniture that reflects both the design intent and the practical and symbolic aspirations of the client and are beating a path to the long-established Luke Hughes studio in Covent Garden.

Luke Hughes at SingaPlural 2013

Luke Hughes at SingaPlural 2013

March 2013

Luke Hughes was back in Singapore in March for the third time in 12 months, this time not only to give a series of keynote presentations for architects and designers on materials and sustainability but also as a judge - both for the Furniture Design Awards (FDA) 2013, and for the Hospitality Design Summit 2013 at MaxAtria.

The events were part of SingaPlural 2013 an eight-day long design festival spread out over five locations in Singapore. FDA 2013 is supported by DesignSingapore Council, International Enterprise (IE) Singapore, SPRING Singapore, the American Hardwood Export Council (AHEC) and DesignS.

Luke Hughes is a member of the Design Advisory Panel of the Singapore Furniture Industry Council.

St Albans Cathedral

St Albans Cathedral

February 2013

Candlemas was celebrated at evensong in St Alban's Cathedral on 3 Feb 2013 with the dedication of the new 'pulpitum crossing' - an elaborate set of storage cabinets under the organ loft and behind the stone pulpitum screen.

The project has been part of a four-year programme to replace all the liturgical furniture for the nave. Right at the start of that consultation period, it was clear that in looking at the furniture, it was imperative to look first at providing somewhere to store it, along with all the other usual cathedral clutter (staging, boxes, trolleys, spare furniture, ladders etc). that tends to lurk in open view in the side aisles if there is nowhere else to put it. Without knowing what sizes potential storage could accommodate, it seemed premature to predict the sizes of the various pieces of furniture. So, from the beginning, the constraints of the storage area were major design factors in addressing the designs of the nave furniture.

The redesign, by Luke Hughes®, has now fully transformed the processional route between the choir and nave, creating not only a sense of mystery about this curious, hidden space but also a continuation of the decorative traditions of the 11th century cathedral, albeit in a modern idiom. The cathedral is fortunate in having a fine collection of medieval wall decorations and painted panelled ceilings. With the help of artist John Maddison, noted for his work in Ely Cathedral, this tradition has now been continued into the 21st century.

The detailing of the woodwork in both the new nave furniture and the storage area reflects the Benedictine monastic traditions of St Albans. It strives to be understated, reverential and yet speak of a sense of permanence. There is an integrity in the ways the joints are expressed and the mouldings are run – this owes as much to the principles of the Arts & Crafts Movement as it does to the twelfth century idealism of the monks who inhabited the abbey immediately after it was built.
Because of the sensitivity of the fabric, all the woodwork has been designed to be free standing, with no fixings into floor or walls.
Another key aspect of the design has been the lighting, designed by Sutton-Vane Associates. This uses a simple series of LED strip-lights that can be dimmed to create a mood as suitable for a sombre procession as for a tourist party moving to the north aisle.

Related articles:
St Albans project profile
News - vibrant storage - Sept 2012
News - liturgical furniture - Apr 2009

Other links:
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Edwardian screens for The Prince of Wales’ Theatre

Edwardian screens for The Prince of Wales’ Theatre

February 2013

The Prince of Wales’ Theatre in London are seeking to create privacy within the Prince’s Room - the area where VIPs are hosted before the start of performances.

This historic theatre was extensively refurbished in 2004 by Clare Ferraby and the RHWL Arts Team ‘taking audiences for a trip to the Edwardian era’. The project incorporated bespoke seating by Luke Hughes® in the foyer and boxes. The new screens will replace office pin-boards and carry the theme of the decorative fan fretwork seen elsewhere in the building, one of many of London’s theatres refurbished and brought up to date by Cameron Mackintosh in the last twenty years.

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