Robin Day, Master of British Furniture Design, Dies


Photo: wikipedia

Yesterday TreeHugger asked whether the Monobloc was the most famous plastic chair in the world. Now, sadly, the death has been announced of the creator of another very famous plastic chair.

Robin Day was Britain's most famous designer of 20th century furniture. His Hille polypropylene stacking chair was created in 1963, and nearly 50m have been sold. But his influence on British design stretched farther than that.
Photo: iconicinteriors

He was part of a group of designers in the late 1940's who were trying to change the face of British design. As he said, "To many of us then, design was more than just a profession--we were dedicated, competitive and filled with evangelical zeal."

There were links with the American design world. They all knew about the American designers such as Charles Eames. Mies Van der Rohe had been a judge of a competition that he had been in.

He wanted to make good design affordable and available to all. He began to work with a small furniture company that was changing its focus to contemporary design.


Photo: architonic

His first big coup was the moulded plywood chair that he designed in 1950. The Hillestak was lightweight and stacking and sold for 66 shillings at the time.

Due to his efforts, by 1951 British design was being taken very seriously internationally. He and his wife, textile designer Lucienne Day, were doing work for theatres, graphic arts and interiors.

In the early 1960's he created the Hillingdon plastic chair out of polylpropylene. Following Eames' influence, he created a low cost, mass produced chair out of light and cheap material. It could be plain or upholstered, and it had a stacking frame so that the seat could be attached to a barstool or a low stool.


Photo: Royal Mail

Cleverly, they sent out 6,000 free samples to architects, designers and critics as a way to spread the word. It was so successful that 50 firms were licensed to make it all over the world.

After that he and his wife went from strength to strength, designing department stores, theatres, and supermarkets up to the 1980's.

His philosophy of architecture was clear and sustainable: "I think it's important that things endure. There's this very vulnerable planet of ours with finite resources. Architects and designers have, I think, a fair responsibility for conserving energy and materials, and making things durable."

His star fell for a while; he became disappointed with modern design and felt it had become debased. But in 2001 a major show of his work was held and his furniture and her textiles were re-issued. He had become British modernism's grand old man. He died at age 95. His wife died earlier this year.

More on British Design
Buy a Stamp and Get the Best of British Design
London Design Festival: Chairs are Us
Icon Interview: Robin Day

Tags: Chairs | Decorating | Designers | Multi-Purpose Objects | Reusability

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