Reading Room Chairs for Comfort and Contemplation

The Roe Reading Room, St Edward’s School

St Edward’s, or Teddies, is an esteemed boarding school in Oxford with a 158-year history. It has a top academic reputation, and good cultural links with life of the city too. Its stellar list of alumni includes Wind in the Willows author Kenneth Grahame, Channel 4 newscaster Jon Snow, and actress Florence Pugh. The school is arranged around a large quadrangle that has existed on the site since 1873. Modern additions to St Edward’s School campus set a high architectural standard. The school and city share the North Wall Arts Centre by Haworth Tompkins (2006), winner of a RIBA award; and its minimal cricket pavilion by John Pawson (2009) is the winner of an Oxford Preservation Trust award.



The school’s latest developments opened in 2020: The Olivier Hall performance space, and Christie Centre, both by school specialists TSH Architects. The Christie Centre was conceived to bring students’ learning styles into the 21st-century, combining a library, reading room, informal learning spaces and café. Luke Hughes’ involvement in the project was to provide a set of reading room chairs that would aid comfort and concentration in a quiet group study space (the Roe Reading Room), situated above the Oxley Library. The reading room has the feeling of being tucked up in the academic centre’s rafters. It makes a beautifully quiet and contemplative space for the school’s sixth-form students to work independently.

The architect saved the best details for the reading room: a dramatic university-style study space, which features an exposed diagrid roof structure made out of laminated oak. Natural light pours over reading room chairs and tables from glazed openings in the ridge, and there are cloistered views out on either side. ‘The glinting apex of the library building is a towering presence on the quad, unequivocally signalling a new chapter in the school’s history and placing academic ambition and endeavour at the heart of the school,’ Tracy van der Heiden, head of communications at St Edward’s School told Architects’ Journal.



The oak-framed LH-42 chair was the ideal fit for the exposed timber structure which wraps the reading room space and gives it its distinctive character. The reading room chairs complement long study tables that run down the middle of the space, as well as tables for four that sit along the edges. The chairs look particularly spectacular under the series of halo-like chandeliers suspended above. Black upholstered seats were chosen to give the reading room chairs a clean modern look, and to match the surfaces of the study tables. The interior has a bold palette of colours and materials that suits the ambition of this top-class learning space. It is strikingly modern while echoing the traditional setup of the reading rooms found at Oxford University and elsewhere.

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