American company Steelcase has used archival designs by architect Frank Lloyd Wright to create the Racine Collection, a line of home office furniture.
Steelcases’ line of furniture, which includes desks and chairs, was named the Racine Collection after the city where Wright created the SC Johnson Administration Building in 1939. The building contained the original versions of the furniture, which also They were made by Steelcase.
In collaboration with the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation, the principal custodians of the American architect’s archive, Steelcase developed the new designs over the course of two years, closely following the original.
During Wright’s 70-year career, during which he played an important role in shaping modern architecture, he left behind thousands of designs and plans for buildings and furnishings.
“Luckily, Wright left us a guide,” Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation executive director Stuart Graff told Dezeen. “Wright wanted people to accept the principles and show what they were capable of doing.”
Early items in the collection include desks, office chairs, and armchairs, all drawn from designs used in the SC Johnson Building.
The desks and chairs underwent a number of modifications, most notably an increase in size, as Steelcase found that only 20 percent of American men would have free legroom in the original design.
The iconic three-legged chairs have also been modified to have four legs, due to stability issues.
Small details were also implemented, such as changing the spring-loaded drawers of the desks to magnets. Otherwise, the basic structure of the designs remains faithful to the originals.
“We have a shared commitment to excellence,” Steelcase’s managing director of partnerships, Meghan Dean, told Dezeen.
“But it was important to be in dialogue with the foundation and say ‘hey, we have a better way’ without affecting the original.”
Using a palette derived from a photograph of Wright’s pencil set, the collection will be available in a variety of different colors, including an all-black series. Another option includes the walnut and Racine red configuration of the original designs.
Graff said that the collection should not be seen as a remake but rather as a “reimagining” of the originals.
“The legacy is a living thing and not a retrospective art collection,” he told Dezeen, adding that this is a departure from the foundation’s previous collaborations.
“In the past, the foundation has been more interested in subservient reproductions and has not given 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 tap into Wright’s vast archive to continue reimagining the original designs.
When asked why the foundation chose now, nearly a hundred years later, to reinvent these designs, Graff said it stems from the need to “go back” to the principles of Wright’s work.
“We’ve seen a lot of designs that draw attention to themselves, but have no relation to the world around them,” he said.
Architects and designers around the world have had an ongoing fascination with Wright’s designs. Last week, Dezeen published the works of architect David Romero, who uses computer software to create renderings of buildings Wright designed but never built.
Other brands have released their own reissues of Wright furniture, including Cassina in 2018, which introduced a new version of the Taliesin 1 armchair.