Robin Day (25 May 1915 – 9 November 2010) was one of the most significant British furniture designers of the 20th century, enjoying a long career spanning seven decades. An accomplished industrial and interior designer, he was also active in the fields of graphics and exhibitions.
It isn’t an exaggeration to say that Robin Day is one of the most significant furniture designers of the 20th century. There aren’t many people who haven’t sat on one of his chairs.
Although best known for his Polypropylene stacking chair, Day grew up among the beech woods and timber furniture factories of High Wycombe, and retained a life-long love for wood as a material. As Paula Day, his daughter and founder of The Robin and Lucienne Day Foundation explains, “I think his use of wood is a neglected aspect of his work.”
The exhibition, curated by Jane Withers and designed by Turner Prize nominees Assemble explored Day’s innovative use of wood in his professional practice together with objects made for the family home and writings that reveal his deep attachment to nature and strong environmental concerns. Alongside Day’s famous designs, Paula Day made pieces from her personal collection available for the exhibition: “I have inherited small quirky wooden objects and drawings made by my father which have never before been exhibited and which I believe can make a special contribution to public understanding of the designer’s personal creativity.” In response to this, Assemble‘s installation was a reflection on the forest as Day’s fundamental site of creative exploration. From the greenwood bows of Day’s childhood to his explorations in moulded plywood, this installation was a conduit for exploring the direct link between play and material innovation.
A forest of timber blocks were used to display the objects and create a playful spatial landscape. The installation was on display outside the V&A’s Britain 1500-1900 Galleries. The exhibit formed the focus of ‘Day in London’ – a trail across the city joining the V&A, with the V&A Seminar programme and Case Furniture.
The project was sponsored by The Robin and Lucienne Day Foundation, John Lewis and Benchmark and is supported using public funding by the National Lottery through Arts Council England.