Collection

Tecta/ Crass Chair

Collection: When modernism goes bad

Category: Furniture

Date: Circa 1940s

Designer: Eric Lyons OBE/ Adam Chodzko

Nationality of Designer: British

Manufacturer: Packet Furniture Co.

Manufacturers Location: Great Yarmouth Norfolk (U.K)

Material: Brentwood Ply, Vintage Leather Jacket

Dimensions: Height 89 cm x Width 54 cm

Purchase Price: £25

Abstract:

Tecta Chair by Eric Lyons 1940s / Crass Fan Leather Jacket 1990s

Provenance:

Purchased in 2006 from Help the Aged furniture warehouse in Kendal for Lawson Park. Leather Jacket belonged to a Crass fan in the 1980s

Personal history/nominator:

Purchased by Adam Sutherland because of (rather than despite of) the alterations.

Adaptions/renovations:

Marked on the underside of the seat. Reupholstered by Adam Chodzko

Why it's in the Collection:

Eric Lyons worked for SPAN, a high density housing ideology that promoted communal living with carefully designed shared buildings. Lyons was a true community architect and the designs worked well and remained popular. Although many of the unique ideas of the SPAN scheme have gone, most importantly the communal eating.

Crass were an almost anti-punk band that became synonymous with the Punk movement. They doggedly persued an anti-capitalist stance from their commune in Essex. The commune, Dial House, became a magnet for the members of an alternative lifestyle that included loud music and drugs. Last reports saw the band running workshops on composting toilets and organic gardening - so, still trying to save us.

Adam Chodzko brings these two related and perhaps failed ideologies as a meaningful chair for Grizedale Arts new artist residency and farm, Lawson Park (once owned by John Ruskin) as a kind of critique of attempts to make a better world - beware the chair, the artists chair, the poets chair, the throne. He creates a critique of the attempt to make a utopia, that's what artists have been doing since the 60s, being critical, debunking the status quo, and the systems that have been so carefully set up over the millennia. They call it deconstruction - are we now looking to artists to reconstruct this mess, the social chaos wrought by the dismantling of the social systems? It could be a long wait, its been 50 years. Can art save us? It should at least try because it's contributed to getting us into this mess

About the Designer/Maker:

Eric Lyons OBE was principally an architect, most famous for his work for SPAN, the innovative housing developer of the 1950's.

Lyons was born in 1912. His father was a toy designer. He worked for T.P. Bennett and from 1938 for architects Gropius and Fry. During the Second World War Lyons worked for Harry Weedon designing factories and hostels. After the War he resumed his practice. The housing scheme he devised in 1948 in Twickenham demonstrated how the landscaping of the common space could provide a visual link between the built elements. This was a theme that continued through his work, working as architect and landscape architect. 
During the 1940's Lyons designed the best-selling Tecta range for the furniture manufacturer Packet.

By the early 1960's, Lyons had designed housing schemes for SPAN at Blackheath, Beckenham, Twickenham, Teddington, Putney and Cambridge. Eric Lyons and Partners had also been involved in the design of high-density housing estates for local authorities in London and Southampton. Lyons approach was all embracing. He believed that the architect should provide a service to society. Lyons was convinced that residents' societies helped engender a sense of belonging and community. Lyons performed the function of 'architectural generalist' taking an active involvement in the design, town planning and landscaping requirements of the SPAN housing schemes. Many of the schemes remain popular places to live to this day.

About the Manufacturer:

The Packet Furniture Company, based in Great Yarmouth, Norfolk (UK), were celebrated, leading manufacturers of low cost design in the post war era employing important designers of the time such as Lyons and G A Jenkins.

In 1946 the Victoria and Albert Museum curated the "Britain Can Make it" exhibition to celebrate the launch of the first permanent gallery within the Museum that focused on "the greatest works of English decorative art" and included several Packet designs.

Lyons designed many pieces for Packet including a series of flat pack tables and chairs.

Bibliography & Further information

T.P Bennett

Harry Weedon

Interesting portraits of Lyons