Author: Karla Götz
News no.: 17001

Did you know… the Dickinson Chairs?

An invitation to take it easy and have a chat: The University of Bremen’s bright red Dickinson chairs

Summer 2015: Unveiling on the campus: (from left) Wilfried Müller, former President of the University of Bremen, Vice President Yasemin Karakaşoğlu, Nancy Roseman, President of Dickinson College, and Christoph Sodemann, alumni network

A photo of the originals on the campus of Dickinson College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, posted on Facebook, early February 2017

The small groupings of comfortable bright-red reclining seats on the lawn in front of the main administration building are a real eye catcher: The Dickinson chairs. But how did they get there; and where did they get their name?

In June 2015, the University celebrated 30 years of partnership with Dickinson College in USA. Fruitful academic exchange between teaching faculty and students on all levels characterizes the many years of successful cooperation with the College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania State. The visitors from Bremen were not only deeply impressed by Dickinson’s dignified buildings: They were also very taken by the ergonomically shaped, brightly colored chairs spread around the campus.

A sign of thriving partnership

This led to the idea of placing the first three elegant red recliners in the University’s Garden of Nations for the anniversary celebration. They stand for the thriving transatlantic partnership between the two institutions. The idea caught on. Now, for a donation of 400 euro, you can set a sign and have your own personal Dickinson chair placed on the campus in Bremen. The sponsor’s name is recorded on a plaque attached to the chair. Among the very first sponsors was former President of the University of Bremen, Wilfried Müller, together with former President of Dickinson College, William G. Durden. In the meanwhile, their example has been followed by many others, including the University’s current president, Bernd Scholz-Reiter, the University’s vice presidents, Yasemin Karakaşoĝlu and Thomas Hoffmeister, the alumni association, Sparkasse Bremen, as well as honorary professor and member of the Management Board of Sparkasse Bremen, Heiko Staroßom with his wife Michaela. There are now 17 chairs and these will very soon be joined by numbers 18 and 19 in the coming spring.

Firmly anchored to the ground

Dr. Annette Lang, leader of the International Office who came up with the idea, is happy to see how much the chairs are appreciated on sunny days. “Other persons and institutions are more than welcome to join in and brighten up our campus”, she says. The University has to thank its facility maintenance staff that none of the attractive seats have been removed. One of its members designed the virtually indestructible ground plate the seats are chained to. And the seats themselves are very heavy: Made of hard polyethylene, a hundred-percent recyclable material, they are manufactured by a company in Bielefeld under environmentally friendly production conditions.

Cult garden furniture for 100 years

The seats first originated in the highest mountain range in New York State, the Adirondack Mountains, from which the design gets its name. Now known to most as “Muskoka chairs”, they are very popular in the USA and Canada. The extremely comfortable, cult garden chair with its slatted backrest has been around for more than 100 years. Wooden versions made in the early 1900s can fetch as much as 1,000 dollars at antique auctions.  Today, the rather quaint, rustic seats adorn exclusive holiday resorts, dream beaches, and mountain hotel terraces – not to forget the gently rolling park opposite the University of Bremen’s MZH building. All we need now is some warm sunny weather!