Ernest Race 1913-1964
Ernest Race, an English textile and furniture designer, was one of the
most inventive and challenging exponents of mid-century British design.
Ernest Race was born in Newcastle-upon-Tyne in 1913 and after
graduating in interior design from London’s Bartlett School of
Architecture, he joined the lighting firm, Troughton & Young as a
draughtsman. After visiting a weaving village in India in 1937, he
returned to London and opened a shop in Knightsbridge to sell textiles
Race did not start designing furniture until just after World War II
when he answered an advertisement from engineer, J.W. Noel Jordan.
Jordan ran an engineering company during the war and believed that new
manufacturing techniques could be used in the production of furniture.
He opened a factory in Clapham, London and looked for a collaborator to
design utilitarian, mass-produced furniture.
Race and Jordan named the new company, Ernest Race Limited (later Race Furniture) to capitalise
on Race’s architect and designer contacts. In 1945-46 they responded to
the government’s call to manufacture affordable furniture from the
limited list of unrestricted materials.
Race & Jordan’s first chair was produced in 1946 for the Victoria
& Albert Museum’s exhibition ‘Britain Can Make It’. The BA3 is
still on display at the V&A today as an example of iconic British
design. The manufacturing process was revolutionary and used salvaged
materials, including aluminium from redundant aircraft.
During his career, Race was awarded gold and silver medals at the tenth
Milan Triennale, three Design Centre Awards, gold awards at the
California State exhibition and was appointed to the Royal Society of
Arts Faculty of Royal Designers for Industry and a Fellow of the
Society for industrial Artists and received the Society of Industrial
Artists and Designers’ Design Medal. His designs are now held in
various collections including the V&A Museum in London and MOMA in