What’s hiding at TU Delft? The chair collection

The Faculty of Architecture and the Built Environment has a diverse chair collection. The display can be found on the first floor, on the same corridor as the library. It is quite literally a wall of chairs.

It all began in 1957. “Several students decided to start collecting chairs because they thought they might make interesting study objects for design students to find out about techniques for making chairs, how to make a comfortable chair, aesthetics and so on," says curator, Charlotte van Wijk.

“More and more people started to contribute to the collection. You can see different types of chairs - office chairs, children's chairs, folding chairs. A lot of them were actually used in the faculty," says Van Wijk. The collection now comprises around 300 chairs in total, although not all of them are out on display.

The collection is arranged by construction materials and, within the materials, arranged by how they work or method of construction. Famous architect and designers are grouped together as well. According to Van Wijk, “the display here isn't very flexible with the shelf system, so it might look random, but there is a system to it if you know what to look for."

This collection is quite different than a museum exhibition as it contains pieces with interesting construction, rather than a beautiful aesthetic. “They‘re not necessarily very beautiful pieces that a museum might like to present, but we are an educational collection, that’s the key," says Van Wijk.

The extensive collection includes six original Gerrit Rietveld chairs. The designer and architect donated them in support of the project in 1964. “He really liked the idea of this collection being around technique and making, because that was his approach to design," says Van Wijk. There are also examples from French architect Jean Prouvé, and Dutch industrial designer Friso Kramer.

“We have a few chairs out on loan. For instance, there's one of our Rietveld chairs in the Rijksmuseum at the moment. In November 2014 the Gorcums Museum will borrow around twenty-five chairs for an exhibition. I often have enquiries about the collection," adds Van Wijk.

The collection narrowly missed destruction in the faculty fire of 2008. Fortunately it was kept in a closed depot in a lower part of the old building, so it was undamaged. When the faculty moved to their current location, initially it wasn't possible to display the collection. However, in 2010, a donation from the Dutch Sofa Foundation, an organisation which supports Dutch furniture designers, allowed the collection to be displayed again.

The display is permanent and can be seen during faculty opening hours. You can learn more about the collection in Chairs: The Delft Collection which is available via Google Books.

What's hiding at TU Delft? is a series by Delta highlighting objects and collections hidden around the university. Want to suggest an exhibit? Email us at deltainternational@tudelft.nl