Bodleian Oxford Library Chair

A UK-wide competition was launched in September 2012 to design a new chair for the historic Bodleian Libraries at the University of Oxford.


Responding to an exacting brief including comfort, usability, practicality, longevity and character—the designs were shortlisted to three finalists. The three final designs were developed to a full scale working prototype for testing within the library environment by readers in September 2013.

One of the three finalists included the designer-manufacturer partnership of London’s AL_A (Amanda Levete Architects) and Herman Miller. Midland Alloy were elected by this partnership to manufacture the prototype chair frames.

Shaped steel chair in library
© AL_A


The chairs were produced from pre-polished, work-hardened 304 stainless steel solid bar. The bar was CNC-machined, bent and fitted with stainless steel triangular connectors to link the 3D printed seat shell each side. Herman Miller then completed the assembly.

Shaped steel chair outside historic building in the sunshine
© AL_A


Through innovative development, we were able to manufacture the curved chair frames with bends of various radii in a single setup and without splitting the stainless steel bar. This eliminated the need for TIG welded joints, which helped to streamline production and improve cosmetic appearance.

Curved steel chair frame
© Midland Alloy