A Chair For Today's Increasingly Secular, Multipurpose Churches

ECAL grad Jonas Nyffenegger designs the ultimate anti-pew.

As secularism spreads across Western Europe, cathedrals are morphing into much more than places of worship. They're tourist destinations, meeting halls, and vaulting concert venues. Yet with rare exception, they're furnished as if all anyone does there is pray dutifully at the altar.

Recent ECAL grad Jonas Nyffenegger has designed a sleek, convertible wood chair for the cathedrals of today, these houses of many mansions.

Rever, as he calls it, was dreamed up explicitly for the medieval Cathédrale Notre-Dame of Lausanne. Blessed with the Lamborghini of all organs — a fresh, 40-ton, 7,000-pipe beaut conceived of, incidentally, by a guy who designs Lamborghinis — Notre-Dame supplements its religious proceedings with concerts, sometimes as many as two a week. The chairs, though, are bolted together in rows and positioned toward the altar, directly opposite the organ. So every time there's a concert, the cathedral has to pay a couple guys to come in and turn around the chairs, one row at a time. (There are thousands of chairs.)

Rever offers up the easiest solution this side of divine intervention. It's got a wing-shaped backrest that rotates on an axis at the center of the seat pan. Push over the backrest, and the front of the chair transforms into the back and vice versa. It's like two chairs in one, with one facing the altar; the other, the organ. The best part: Anyone, even a granny, could convert the chair in a jiffy, eliminating the need for pricey movers.

Nyffenegger designed Rever for the particulars of Notre-Dame, though it's obvious it could redound to the benefit of other cathedrals, churches, and secular entertainment venues like blackbox theaters and music auditoriums. Hell, the styling is so good, what with all that pretty ash wood and all those gently rounded contours, we could even see it in our TV room, our own little house of worship.

[Images courtesy of Jonas Nyffenegger]

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  • Ryan Armbrust

    This is pretty cool. There is a very interesting precedent (over 100 years ago!) in Nebraska, where a Protestant/Catholic church was built with altars at opposing ends and all the pews had backs that flipped. I can't find any good pictures of the pews, but here's a page with info on the church...