GF 40/4 stacking chair by David Rowland
The final design date for this chair is 1964, but the research and development of the chair itself,
including special techniques and materials, began in 1956.
David Rowland set out to tackle the basic criterion for a successful stacking chair, namely
closeness of nesting. By using a very thin high-tensile steel rod with a sheet metal seat and back, he achieved a
stacking distance of half an inch. This design is an outstandingly good solution to the problem of quantity
stacking and storage, and has emerged as both a beautiful and a comfortable chair.
Lecture or conference hall seating is notorious, and the sight of this chair in an auditorium can
be a great relief, as it has an unusually high standard of comfort, combined with a small but vital amount of
flexibility under a fidgeting body.
The frame is made of a steel rod 176"in diameter. The detailing is clean and direct. For example,
all the joints are silver-brazed, a technique that gives a smooth perfectly formed weld requiring little or no
finishing work before chrome-plating.
The seat and back are made of formed sheet steel with 136" rolled edges, adding with great economy
of means to the chair's structural strength. Also, being set between the frames, rather than on them, the seat and
back add no extra thickness of their own in terms of stacking distance.
The specially developed vinyl coating on the sheet steel adds considerably to the chair's virtues,
making a maintenance-free finish, giving a pleasant non-metallic feel to the contact areas, and allowing a range of
colours to be offered. Also, the chair is completely fireproof.
A special trolley is available with the GF 40/4, with strong castor wheels, allowing for the easy movement of a
stack of forty of the chairs at a time.
It is worth noting that such a stack is only four feet high overall. Flanges on the back of the
frame incorporate male and female connectors for interlocking lines of chairs. The front connection is made through
floor glides that are almost invisible, being made of clear plastic. The interlocking system is firm enough to
allow for four chairs at a time to be gang-stacked for fast clearance.
The flanges on the legs are the only slightly disturbing element of the chair, but they are
necessary for structural stiffening, and have been handled with subtlety. To say that this chair has influenced
subsequent designs would be a gross understatement.
Manufacturers, aware of the demand for large-capacity movable seating, and for economically stored
flexible seating for all purposes, are driving their designers to produce a competitor with these stringent
specifications. No other design has yet achieved the beautiful simplicity and total appropriateness of Rowland's
Sling Chair by Clement Meadmore