Dining Hall

Trinity College, Cambridge

Flexible Furniture

Education & Research

In 2015, Luke Hughes was commissioned by Trinity Hall, Cambridge to redesign the Dining Hall furniture as part of a general refurbishment project. Amongst the challenges of the refurbishment was retaining the intimate feel of the space whilst making it much easier for the catering team to move the furniture around.

Flexible furniture would allow the room to be set out for formal and informal dining, music performances and lectures, or cleared away altogether for buffet functions. The greatest challenge was to increase the seating capacity from 96 to 140 (46%) in the Dining Hall and a further 16 in the gallery, without cluttering the space.

This was the first major renovation of the Dining Hall in a century and was designed to see the College through for another century or more. With the site dating to the early 14th century, the College forebearers had built it to last. However, it was clear the old benches had had their day. Although viewed with affection by some, they were felt to be no longer suitable for modern expectations of dining in comfort. One of the great advantages of having selected high quality materials is that they can almost always be restored and revived. The dining tables, with good turned oak legs, had endured a century of abuse from students, staff, and the maintenance team. Well meaning steel straps screwed to the underside of the tops had prevented the normal rhythm of expansion and contraction between winter and summer, leading to bad cracks. Nevertheless, most of the oak was of high quality and perfectly seasoned.

The original benches were replaced with new solid oak-frame and leather upholstered Folio stacking chairs, a style already in use throughout the College that complements the architecture and interiors of the building.

The original tables were knocked apart, the table bases redesigned and the legs repositioned. The table tops were cut down to a size that could allow every sitter to get their knees beneath the top without straddling a table leg. All the legs were found to be reusable as well as about 70% of the tops. New tops were made for the remaining tables. The two high tables were also remade to reduce the width and increase capacity.

The linking beams between the legs were refashioned to incorporate a quick release linking wedge system that allows the bases to be quickly taken down and stored in a former cleaning cupboard under the stairs. The tops can be slid into specially concealed racks.

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