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Battery Park Launches Design Competition for Tech-Savvy Chairs

By Julie Shapiro | August 8, 2012 12:07pm

FINANCIAL DISTRICT — An international competition seeking a modern design for hundreds of new chairs to be placed in Battery Park is hoping to bring in stylish concepts from around the world — not that the new seats will doing any travel themselves.

Warrie Price, president of the Battery Conservancy, just launched an international design competition to find a prototype for the 300 chairs that will grace Battery Green, a new 3-acre oval lawn opening in Battery Park in 2014. The chairs will also be equipped with radio-location technology to keep any sticky-fingered locals from swiping the seats.

The chair must be modern and stylish, yet comfortable and respectful of the park's long history, according to design guidelines. It should also be light enough to move and stack, yet heavy enough to withstand the strong harbor winds, Price explained.

But she doesn't want people to get so comfortable that they take the chairs home with them.

To prevent people from wandering off with the new seats, each one will have a radio frequency ID tag that emits a radio signal. Workers will be able to use the signal to round up the chairs at the end of the day — even if the chairs have made it outside the park's boundaries.

Price believes Battery Park will be the first in the city to use the radio ID technology for its chairs.

Most important, the seats should be as instantly recognizable as the green folding chairs in Bryant Park — but they should not look like any other chairs in any other parks in the city.

"I want the chair to be so unique that it's only at the Battery," Price said Tuesday. "We want it to be special."

The "Draw Up A Chair" competition, which launched last week and runs through Oct. 30, invites students and established designers from North, South and Central America and the Caribbean to try their hand at fulfilling Price's vision.

A jury of design experts — including Paola Antonelli, senior curator at The Museum of Modern Art, and Rob Forbes, founder of Design Within Reach — will choose a group of top designs that will be displayed on banners in Battery Park next spring, so the public can see them and give feedback.

The jury will then pick a handful of finalists, who will get to build a prototype of their concept, and by the fall of 2013 one or more of those designs will be declared the winner. Each winner will receive a $10,000 prize.

Price emphasized that the judging will be blind, and she is particularly encouraging students and emerging designers to apply. The Battery Conservancy has reached out to hundreds of design schools in the Americas and timed the competition to coincide with fall studio classes, Price said.

When it is complete, Battery Green will be the biggest open space in the 25-acre park at lower Manhattan's tip, a place for concerts and other community gatherings. Price hopes well-designed chairs will make locals feel at home there.

"We want you to sit, we want you to relax, we want you to lounge," she said. "We want you to feel so comfortable at the Battery that you really make it your meeting ground."

For more information about the Draw Up A Chair competition, visit the Battery Conservancy's website.