20th century famous designers – Ernest Race

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Like many famous designers of the post-war era, designer Ernest Race was inspired by new technologies and materials that had been developed during the War. Furthermore, under the Government’s ‘utility furniture scheme, companies were encouraged to work with alternative materials in order to preserve the country’s limited reserves of timber and other scarce commodities. His first design for Race Furniture company, the BA3 chair, utilised re-cast aluminium from redundant British warplanes. The upholstery was often made from parachute silk.

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Over the next 15 years, from 1945 to 1960, the company Race established was responsible for producing some of the most iconic designs of the post-war era. In stark contrast to the dreary backdrop of postwar austerity, Race’s designs were characterised by a playful use of modern materials and animated form. Many of his designs were named after exotic animals: Flamingo, Heron, Roebuck and Springbok appeared side-by-side in the new modern home.

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Recognition of famous designer Ernest Race culminated in his designs for the 1951 ‘Festival of Britain’ terrace furniture. The Antelope terrace chair is still recognised as one of the defining designs of the 1950’s, heralding a new optimism commonly known as the ‘New Elizabethanism’.

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In 1955, Race won Gold and Silver medals at the Salone di Milano, International Furniture Fair for the BA3 and Antelope chairs – a first for British furniture design. Ernest Race designs are collected worldwide and are featured in the museum collections of the Victoria and Albert Museum, London and the Museum of Modern Art, New York.

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