Chair Archway Is Revived at the Seat of British Design

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Byline: Louise Jury Chief Arts Correspondent

A TRADITION of giant arches made of chairs that was popular in Victorian times is being revived to celebrate the best of British design.

An arch built from 120 wooden Ercol chairs was unveiled today in the garden of the Victoria and Albert Museum by designer Martino Gamper as part of the London Design Festival.

The 10-foot high installation was thought up by Henrietta Thompson, design and architecture editor of Wallpaper magazine, when researching the history of British chair-making.

Buckinghamshire was the centre of the European chair-making industry in the late 19th century and Ercol is one of the old High Wycombe chairmaking firms.

Miss Thompson discovered that residents used their local product to create celebratory arches to mark visits by the Prince and Princess of Wales and Queen Victoria. Wallpaper magazine decided to commission a modern version and turned to Gamper, whose previous work involved making 100 chairs in 100 days from discarded chairs he found on London streets.

"I thought of Martino instantly because in my mind he was a chair man," Miss Thompson said. "And when I spoke to him about it, I was surprised that he instantly knew what a chair arch was.

Everyone else thought I was mad. …