Ernest Race (1913 – 1964) was a British furniture and industrial designer. He was born in Newcastle-upon-Tyne.
Between 1932-35, he studied interior design at the Bartlett School of Architecture of London University and 1937-39, weaving in India.
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.
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.
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.
Byars, M., & Riley, T. (2004). The design encyclopedia. Laurence King Publishing.
Hoban, S., & Payne, A. (2001). Miller’s collecting modern design. Mitchell Beazley.
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