Ernest Race (1913 – 1964) British furniture and industrial designer

Ernest Race Chair and Sofa DA Chair and DA 6 Sofa
Ernest Race Chair and Sofa DA Chair and DA 6 Sofa

Ernest Race (1913 – 1964) was a British furniture and industrial designer. He was born in Newcastle-upon-Tyne.

Education

Between 1932-35, he studied interior design at the Bartlett School of Architecture of London University and 1937-39, weaving in India. 

Biography

In 1935. he was a model maker, turning to lighting design in c1936 under A.B. Read of the lighting manufacturer Troughton and Young. 

In 1937, he founded Race Fabrics selling textiles of his own design that were handwoven in India. This was closed two years later when he was called to serve in World War 2.

In 1945, he and J.W. Noel Jordan founded Race Furniture, which had to use aircraft metal scrap for its raw material. Between 1945-54. he was the director of the firm. 

Race used an innovative approach to materials. Producing a succession of highly publicized chairs using steel rods. 

Ernest Race Antelope Chair
Ernest Race Antelope Chair
Ernest Race - Neptune Chair designed 1953
Ernest Race – Neptune Chair designed 1953

His 1945 BA chair of sand-cast aluminium and other furniture in salvaged aluminium were innovations based on the scarcity of raw materials after World War II. 

Race’s firm in Sheerness produced more than 250,000 BA chairs using 850 tons of aluminium.   

His 1951 Antelope and Springbok chairs popularized the contemporary thin silhouette; reproduction of the former began in 1990. 

Race also worked in bent plywood, which was incorporated into the Antelope chair and influenced by Marcel Breuer and Charles Eames

Other designs included the 1959 Flamingo easy chair and the 1963 Sheppey settee chair. He did some work for Isokon, and contract design work for P&O Orient Lines, Royal Netherland Lines, and the University of Liverpool Medical School. After 1954, he worked as a freelance designer. 

Recognition

The BA chair and other furniture were shown for the first time at the 1946 ‘Britain Can Make It’ exhibition at the Victoria and Albert Museum; the chair won a Gold Medal at the 1951 (IX) Triennale di Milano. 

His 1947 metal-frame wing chair and storage units were included in the 1948 ‘International Competition for Low-Cost Furniture Design’ exhibition at the New York Museum of Modern Art. 

Several of his designs, including Antelope and Springbok chairs, appeared at the 1951 ‘Festival of Britain.’ 

He showed his work at the 1954 (X), 1957 (XI), and 1960 (XII) Triennali di Milano, where he won gold and silver medals. 

He received three Council of Industrial Design awards for furniture. In 1953, elected Royal Designer for Industry. 

Sources

Byars, M., & Riley, T. (2004). The design encyclopedia. Laurence King Publishing.

Hoban, S., & Payne, A. (2001). Miller’s collecting modern design. Mitchell Beazley.

You may also be interested in

Misha Black (1910 – 1977) British industrial and exhibition designer – Encyclopedia of Design

Misha Black, was an industrial designer, architect and educator, was born in Russia and moved to London when he was 18 months of age. He was mostly self-taught despite a short period of study at the Central School of Arts and Crafts and in Paris, beginning his professional career in graphic art and design of exhibition stands.

Jasper Morrison British Designer quirky, understated furniture – Encyclopedia of Design

Jasper Morrison is a British designer, and he was born and active in London. Between 1979-82 he studied at the Kingston School of Art and Design. Between 1982-85, Royal College of Art, London. Morrison produced quirky, satiric, understated furniture. His 1986 South Kensington flat was widely published in design magazines.

Trevor Dannatt obituary (The Guardian) – Encyclopedia of Design

The Royal Festival Hall, London, is an enduring legacy of the cultural optimism of the Festival of Britain, seven decades ago. In 1948, a hand-picked team of architects was brought in by London county council (LCC) to design the concert hall on the South Bank in which the festival would hold its main show.

Comments are closed, but trackbacks and pingbacks are open.