Custom chair at NC State's new library helps students learn, get comfortable

relder@newsobservercomApril 3, 2013 

In choosing furniture for the signature reading room of the new James B. Hunt Jr. Library, N.C. State University staff wanted to bridge the gap between tradition and technology.

The result is the Hunt chair, a fresh design by an established furniture maker that has roots as deep as the Bank of England and a spirit that evokes the new library’s playfully contemporary form.

“The library is so modern – it really speaks to the future,” said Aaron Moser, of the Thos. Moser furniture company, as he toured the $115 million Hunt Library prior to its dedication Wednesday. “Yet we didn’t want to let go of all the precedents that got us here.”

The university has taken pains – not just with chairs – to get everything right for patrons of the new library, which is named for four-time N.C. Gov. Jim Hunt, an alumnus, according to Gwen Emery, director of library environments for NCSU.

Moser’s company is responsible for the dozens of Regent chairs, a traditional design, that fill the Hill Library on the main campus. That design is based on a form commonly seen in courthouses and financial institutions, including the Bank of England, he said.

After weeks of brainstorming and dozens of drawings exchanged with libraries director Susan Nutter and others, Moser hit upon a new winner: the Hunt chair. It is a slimmed down, slightly more energetic version of the Regent that would complement the new Centennial Campus library.

“We wanted to provide space for every type of kid that might be using the library,” said Emery, who was perched on a streamlined orange settee in the second-floor commons area. “And we wanted classic furniture that would last 20 or 30 years.”

The library’s furniture collection comes from nationally known American makers such as Moser, Herman Miller and Knoll, as well as North Carolina makers Bernhardt, Davis, HBF and others. In all, there are 75 types of chairs in more than 100 colors.

More than simple aesthetics, the layout and furnishings of the library are meant to foster learning and thoughtful collaboration, Emery said.

Space for innovation

The halls offer unexpected nooks where groups of students gather. Flexible seating permits outside-the-box interaction, and open spaces seem to invite casual sprawling. Together, these things make the 221,000-square-foot building designed by Oslo-based Snohetta architects seem almost cozy.

Of course, the type and style of furniture is not alone among the library’s special features.

There’s the Bookbot mechanized storage and retrieval system that organizes 1.5 million books using only a fraction of the space of traditional stacks.

The library’s Creativity Studio features high-definition technology that can be easily refigured to fit any simulation project, and the Game Lab lets designers experiment using a giant “touch wall.”

The Makerspace gives even novice inventors a chance to create working prototypes and architectural models in 3D using a laser cutter.

Hunt walked through library named after him Wednesday, seeing it as a place where North Carolina’s future begins.

“This is where the learning and research begins that results in new products and improves our economy,” Hunt said. “Technology is something we do better here than any place in the world. It’s how we create jobs and recruit industries to our state. I’m truly excited that we have a space like this that not only has books but makes students excited about learning.”

Elders: 919-829-4538

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