American company Steelcase used archival designs from architect Frank Lloyd Wright to create the Racine Collection, a line of home office furniture.
Steelcases furniture line, which includes desks and chairs, Racine Collection was named after the town where Wright created the SC Johnson Administration building in 1939. The building had original furniture, also made by Steelcase.
In collaboration with the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation – the main custodians of the American architect’s archive – Steelcase developed the new designs over two years, closely following the original.
Over Wright’s 70-year career, during which he played a significant role in shaping modern architecture, he left behind thousands of designs and plans for buildings and furniture.
“Wright, fortunately, left us a guide,” Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation CEO Stuart Graff told Dezeen. “Wright wanted people to accept the principles and show what they could do.”
The first items in the collection include desks, office chairs and lounges, all distilled from the designs used in the SC Johnson building.
A series of modifications were made to the desks and chairs, most notably an increase in size, as Steelcase found that only 20 percent of American men would have leg clearance in the original design.
The iconic three-legged chairs were also changed to have four legs, due to stability concerns.
Small details were also implemented, such as changing the spring-operated drawers in the desks to magnets. Otherwise, the basic structure of the designs remains true to the originals.
“We have a shared commitment to excellence,” Steelcase general manager of partnerships Meghan Dean told Dezeen.
“But it was important to have a dialogue with the foundation and say ‘hey, we have a better way’ without interfering with the foundation.”
Using a palette derived from a photograph of Wright’s pencil set, the collection will be available in a variety of colors, including an all-black set. Another option includes the walnut and Racine red configuration of the original designs.
Graff said the collection should not be seen as a remake but as a “reimagining” of the originals.
“Heritage is a living thing and not a backward-looking art collection,” he told Dezeen, adding that this was a departure from the foundation’s earlier collaborations.
“In the past, the foundation was more interested in slave reproductions and did not give the freedom to recreate.”
Graff and Dean also noted that this first iteration is just “the beginning” of the collaboration, and the team hopes to draw on Wright’s vast archive to continue reimagining the original designs.
When asked why the foundation now, nearly a century later, chooses to recreate these designs, Graff said it stems from the need to “come back” to the principles of Wright’s work.
“We’ve seen a lot of design that draws attention to itself but doesn’t relate to the world around it,” he said.
Architects and designers around the world have had a continuing interest in Wright’s designs. Last week, Dezeen published the work of architect David Romero, who uses computer software to create renderings of buildings designed by Wright but never built.
Other brands have launched their own reissues of Wright furniture, including Cassina in 2018, which released a remake of the Taliesin 1 armchair.