Reading in Public: The Project & the Chair

Reading in Public: The Project & the Chair

Trent Johnson
Aug 20, 2009

The Reading in Public project is a celebration of the "written word by way of community performance in public spaces." Their current project is to provide a mobile Reading Chair on which members of the public can "proclaim their love of reading" during a 20-25 minute time slot in public locations —the street corner or a local cafe — all in the name of promoting the simple acts of reading and writing ...

The Reading in Public Chair was designed with wheels and has already had its debut in the Steynberg Gallery in San Luis Obispo, CA (SLO) and around the city at various Reading in Public "spots" including the San Luis Obispo (SLO) library, the Little Theater, the Children's Museum, the Creamery, Blackhorse Espresso, and Linnaea's Cafe (one of my personal favorites).

See more about the Reading in Public Project here.

About the Chair:

Chris Allen, creator of the chair and one of the Reading in Public's organizers, is a LEED-accredited designer at a local SLO firm of Komreich Architects and graduate of Cal Poly San Luis Obispo's Architecture program.

The Chair was designed with the following specifications below, found on Reading in Public's Web site:

  • Event marker: the design needed to have a connection to reading. The lid opens to form a chair, and both seat and back rest gently curve at the hinge, which are all design elements drawn from the form and function of a book. Chris Allen used laminated plywood, the striations of which are a reference to book pages. We installed the chair at Steynberg Gallery in San Luis Obispo before the event so the public could sit on it, and it is now on display at Cal Poly's Kennedy Library.
  • Mobility: We needed to be able to wheel it around easily, but not have it move once it was set down. Chris built in 2 rollerblade wheels at the rear, and we pushed/pulled it by the open lid/chair back.
  • Size: It had to have a small footprint so as not to obstruct pedestrian traffic on city pavements as we wheeled it around.
  • Stability: Sturdy enough that it won't tip over if a kid climbed on it (they did, it didn't move).
  • Comfort: The gentle curvature of the seat and backrest makes it comfortable to sit on.
  • Storage: For any reading material our readers brought with them. The space under the seat works as a small bookcase. Chris also made an ottoman which fits into that space, essentially a box with a lid, which functions as additional storage and seating (we used it for both, and we had all the readers sign the underside of the ottoman's lid). Chris Allen sawed a book in half and used the halves as handles for the ottoman. The name of the book was "Hand Luggage" by John Bayley, on the recommendation of our book-loving friend, Karen Templer.
  • Ease of transport: The chair folds to a cube so we could lift it in and out of a car (the top edge of the lid is notched to prevent pinched fingers).

Flickr Set on the Building of the Chair.All photos from Reading in Public.

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