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Monday, November 22, 2010

Robin Day (1915-2010)

Robin Day, British furniture designer and husband of textile designer Lucienne Day, died November 9 at age 95.

After World War II, Day turned his hand to exhibition and poster design. In 1948 he and Clive Latimer won first prize in the storage section of the International Competition for Low-Cost Furniture organized by MoMA. The cabinets in their flexible, multi-functional storage system were fabricated from a tube of molded plywood cut into sections--a radical innovation for the time.
Day's success brought him to the attention of a British manufacturer, Hille, which had specialized in period furniture, but was eager to modernize. Seizing this opportunity, he designed a series of simple, functional chairs, tables, desks and storage units that harnessed the latest wood and metalworking techniques. Many of his designs were low-cost, such as the beech-framed 1950 Hillestak chair with its molded plywood seat. Whereas pre-war furniture was solid and bulky, Day’s designs were pared down and seemed to float above the ground. “What one needs in today’s small rooms is to see over and under one’s furniture,” he told a journalist in 1955.

Day’s inventive response to technology reflected the positive, forward-looking mood of the early post-war era, with his sparing use of materials and economical approach to construction. From the outset Robin Day was a deeply moral and highly principled designer, who was not interested in making a design statement, but in solving practical problems in the most rigorous, efficient and cost-effective way. “A good design must fulfill its purpose well, be soundly constructed, and should express in its design this purpose and construction,” he stated in 1962.

The commission to design furniture for the Royal Festival Hall marked a turning point in Day’s career. The project included restaurant and foyer furniture, auditorium seating and orchestra chairs, each with specific functional demands. His talents were also evident in the two room settings he designed for the House and Gardens Pavilion at the Festival: one low-cost, one high-cost, both equipped with his latest storage furniture and chairs.

Robin Day married Lucienne Conradi in 1942. It was their passion for design that drew the couple together and formed the basis of their personal and professional relationship. Acting as mutual catalysts, they spurred each other on to realize their ambitions and to produce their most original work.  Lucienne Day died in January of this year at age 93.


Polypropylene stack chair, 1963

Hillestak chair, 1950

Royal Festival Hall lounge chair, 1951

Robin and Lucienne Day's living room

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