Maker’s Eye – St Hugh’s College, Oxford Project

We now have interior images from the newly opened Dickson Poon China Study Centre at St Hugh’s College Oxford, the project we were so deeply involved with designing and making earlier this year.

The project was won and led by the team at Maker’s Eye but it involved 4 bespoke furniture workshops, including us. It’s a story of collaboration and making the most of very experienced designer-makers with the specialist workshop facilities and decades of knowledge. Maker’s Eye won the job against stiff competition because we were able to design a bespoke range of very cost effective furniture specifically for the new China Centre.

Of course they are all strikingly beautiful pieces of furniture; quintessentially English as you would expect for something made for an Oxford College, yet with a hint of oriental design that echos this buildings purpose. The whole project comprised of 63 desks and shelves for the students rooms, as well as academics desks, folding study tables and occasional furniture for other spaces within the new build project, designed by David Morley Architects. Click here to see more images of the building on the DMA website.

We were initially involved in the design of all the pieces, but in particular the signature piece of the collection – the 2 drawer desk. In the end we made 63 of these desks and 12 similarly detailed folding tables, all in solid European oak. While the desk is clearly the signature piece of the collection, we are also particularly proud of the folding study tables and the engineering solutions on the folding leg frames. There is nothing else like it on the market – solid oak with no locking brace to interfere with leg space. Having used one here in our office for meetings we can vouch for how solid they are to work on.

Together, Maker’s Eye and the 4 workshops involved – us, Matthew Burt (acamadics’ desks), Waywood (wall shelves) and Timothy Hawkins (breakout room coffee tables), all shared ideas and expertise to deliver the project to the highest standards in an extremely tight timeframe, on time and on budget. It’s an exciting model with huge potential – through Makers Eye we can now take on much larger projects for architects, main contractors and institutions.

The furniture has been extremely well received by St Hugh’s, with the College Bursar commenting “We are delighted with the furniture Maker’s Eye designed and built for the Dickson Poon China Centre Building. This was a high spec project, and it was essential that the furniture we commissioned was entirely sympathetic to the building. All who have seen the furniture have admired it greatly. It has real presence and lends a beauty and an elegance to the concrete finish of the building.”

The cherry on the cake for all of us is being shortlisted in the ‘Bespoke Furniture’ category for the Wood Awards 2014. The desk and shelves from the project will be on the Wood Awards stand at 100% Design in London from 17-20 September, Stand L390. The aim of the Wood Awards is to recognise, encourage and promote outstanding design, craftsmanship and installation using wood in building or furniture projects with the UK.

This project certainly fulfils those criteria, but I hope that back story of collaboration and collective expertise helps win on the day. We are really proud of our involvement in this project and the design work that we put in with Tony Portus of Maker’s Eye. Click here to visit the Makers’ Eye Website…

There is a more detailed run down of all the 30 shortlisted architectural and furniture projects, including a slideshow, on the RIBA Journal site.