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Title Polypropylene stacking chairs
Collection The Frederick Parker Chair Collection: London Metropolitan University
Date Elizabeth II c. 1990s
Date Purchased donated (two chairs) by Robin Day/Hille in 2002
Description A Mark II moulded Polypropylene chair on tubular steel legs by Hille International, designed by Robin Day OBE

After three years' development work, the Polypropylene chair first appeared on the market in a choice of charcoal or flame red colours at a little under 3 in price. It is one of the very few chairs that after over 40 years is still in production and is undoubtedly a twentieth century furniture classic. The side chair won a Council of Industrial Design (now the Design Council) award in 1965, before the armchair appeared in 1967.

The brief from Hille was for a low cost mass-produced stacking chair, affordable by all and to meet virtually every seating requirement, combining economy with durability and elegance. Mark II succeeded Mark I with a better balance, a more comfortable shape and a textured surface that overcame a previous roughness. Over time it became available in a wide variety of colours and with different forms of base and upholstery. These variations have included Series E for children, made in five sizes with lifting holes, and Polo with rows of graduated circular holes making it suitable for outdoor use. It has been made under licence in forty countries and specified around the world for schools, hospitals, airports, canteens, restaurants, arenas, hotels, as well as homes.

Robin Day's design has had a profound effect on the furniture industry, breaking new ground in a number of technical ways. The one-piece seat and back was injection moulded from polypropylene, a lightweight thermoplastic with a high impact resistance and more flexibility than the fibreglass-reinforced polyester resin that was being used by Charles Eames in the USA. It was invented by an Italian scientist, Guilio Natta, in 1954 and the rights to its manufacture were later acquired by Shell. The material itself was cheap, but the precision engineered steel moulds were extremely expensive to make. Yet no other known substance had so favourable a combination of weight, strength, chemical resistance and rigidity. It has proved to be one of the most successful examples of industrial design in the furniture industry, as well as an outstanding application of manufacturing technique.
Frederick Parker Foundation Number fpf410
Rights Frederick Parker Foundation



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