A new cathedra and cross for Leicester Cathedral designed by Draisci Studio and crafted by Benchmark

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A new cathedra and cross have been commissioned for Leicester Cathedral as part of the reordering project that has been instigated to provide a respectful place for the interment of the remains of Richard III and allow the mission and work of the Cathedral to grow.

A cathedra, or bishop’s throne is the seat of a bishop and symbolises the bishop’s teaching authority. It gives its name to the building where it is installed, the cathedral.  The honour of designing the new cathedra was bestowed upon Draisci Studio, award-winning architecture and design practice that blurs the boundaries between the practical and the poetic. Having won the commission from a shortlist of designers, the studio then turned to Benchmark, leading British furniture maker, to craft the cathedra.

The Dean of Leicester, the Very Revd David Montheith says, “This striking cathedra will communicate with great clarity the fundamental mission of the cathedral. Cathedrals in every generation are known for imaginative artistic design of great quality often breaking new imaginative ground. Through this new commission we see a faith rooted in tradition and yet reaching out with great confidence to the people of our own generation.”

The design concept
Rather than a permanent "throne of power", the new cathedra design is lightweight and mobile, reflecting a contemporary vision for the role of a Bishop in the 21st century, as dynamic principal pastor. Its folded geometry, while adding to the eclectic richness of Leicester Cathedral, is timeless and universal, in reference to the roots of the historic Church as well as to its future.

An open structure of wooden legs supports the seat, making it appear as suspended: dignity and status are addressed in the design with rigour, but without being imposing, shaping the "seat" of a Bishop who is part of the community and not separated from his people. A Cross, fixed to one of the pillars facing the new altar, complements and enhances the design of the cathedra marking its stationary position in the church, when not moving.

Reassuringly firm and generously open, the folds that define the form of these two symbolic objects are, at the same time, structural and ornamental. The new designs are distinctly contemporary in harmony with the ensemble of old and new.

The making and materials
Black American Walnut is the base material, which contrasts with the pale limestone of the church.  The cathedra is configured by a series of multi-faceted walnut panels edged with gold leaf. Joyfully coloured leathers provide comfort to the seat and backrest. There is a discrete crozier holder, in brass patinated finish, which fixes to the seat armrest and below to the base of the cross legs.
For more information about the design of the cathedra:
Rosalba Napolitano rosalba@draisci.com +44 (0)207 226 8800
For more information about the making of the cathedra: Jess Tully stock@jesstully.com  +44 (0)7973 630 421


Francesco Draisci, creative director of Draisci Studio:
“We feel honoured to be selected to interpret this prestigious spiritual brief.  We aim at creating a timeless and universal design adding dynamic richness to the eclectic cathedral. The new cathedra and the new cross designs address dignity and status with rigour without being imposing, fusing together structural and ornamental concerns." 

Sean Sutcliffe, co-founder of Benchmark:
“The whole team at Benchmark are excited about the making of the Leicester cathedra, all the more so because Francesco Draisci’s design is brave, brilliant and thoroughly modern.  It also presents significant technical challenges to our craftsmen with highly complex mitred joints between a mixture of lightweight composite material and solid walnut.  For a furniture maker this has been a dream job which doesn’t happen in many lifetimes.  I hope that congregations for hundreds of years will enjoy the result”

Architects for the reordering of the cathedral, van Heyningen and Haward, are administering the current contract for the building works that transform the Chancel (phase 1 of the reordering). They are the designers of Richard III's tomb and the new high altar, and the lead designers responsible for the overall coordination of the new display units, loose furniture, high altar and cathedra.  The interment will take place on Sunday 22nd March.
About Draisci Studio
Draisci Studio is an award-winning design practice established by Francesco Draisci (DipArch, ARB, RIBA) after working with the Richard Rogers Partnership and Ron Arad. The studio has acquired a reputation for excellence in the design and development of unique projects that blur the boundaries between the practical and the poetic.  Draisci Studio’s multi-disciplinary creative flair and experience has allowed the practice to deliver commissions spanning from architecture to interiors, exhibitions to installations, as well as design objects.   The practice has worked for London’s V&A, the Garage in Moscow and the Venice Biennale. It has also designed sacred objects for the New North London Synagogue, Leicester Cathedral and provided design consultancy for commercial brands such as Nike, Karl Lagerfeld, Nokia, Peroni.   www.draisci.com
About Benchmark
One of Great Britain’s most technologically advanced workshops, Benchmark are widely regarded as the UK’s powerhouse of craft, with an unrivalled depth of knowledge of wood.  The company has a 50 strong team in over 40,000 sq ft of workshops for timber milling, carpentry, veneering, spray shops, metalworking, and in-house upholstery, as well as design studio.   Benchmark runs an award winning apprenticeship scheme, was the first furniture maker to be awarded the Queen’s Award for Sustainable Development and is proud to be at the forefront of the development of environmental Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) in furniture making – a world first.  The company works extensively with public buildings, hotels, restaurants, shops, offices and private residences. Recent projects include the British Museum; London Library; Queens’s College Oxford; and for GREAT Festivals, the ‘digital double’ for 10 Downing Street. www.benchmarkfurniture.com

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Image Credit:: Carlo Draisci www.carlodraisci.com