Wells Mackereth and Graphic Clinic work on V&A chair show

The Victoria & Albert Museum of Childhood opens its children’s chair design show Sit Down: Seating for Kids next month, with exhibition design by Wells Mackereth and graphics by Graphic Clinic.

The museum appointed architect, exhibition and interior design group Wells Mackereth in July 2009, following a creative pitch against some four other consultancies. The group impressed the Museum of Childhood with its 3D model of the show, says museum curator Catherine Bornet.

Bornet briefed the group to weave a Goldilocks and the Three Bears theme into the exhibition, referencing the differently sized chairs that Goldilocks tries out in the fairy tale. ‘Wells Mackereth has taken this on board very strongly and the theme runs throughout the show, being particularly strong in the first section,’ says Bornet.

‘This was the most inspiring bit of the brief, allowing us to create interaction with the chairs. This exhibition is quite challenging to engage children, it not being about space or magic,’ says Wells Mackereth partner Sally Mackereth.

Visitors will enter the exhibition through three differently sized doors, opening into the Three Bears’ cottage. They can then vote for their favourite chair by placing spoons in porridge bowls. An adjacent room will look at how seating has been adapted for learning, play and transport, and the show closes with a timeline from 1600 through to the present day.

Wells Mackareth is working with graphic design group Graphic Clinic on the show, and that consultancy has, in turn, brought illustrator Emma Houlston on board to create graffiti-style murals, including large-scale speech bubbles.

‘Children don’t read text that much, so her illustrations will help to highlight some of the things we want to explain to young visitors,’ says Bornet. Bucks New University furniture design postgraduate students have created a series of stools for the show, as alternatives to the school chair, in answer to a brief set by furniture company Ercol. ‘This is to try to encourage people to contemplate having stools in schools instead of chairs, which can be bad for children’s backs,’ says Bornet.

Sit Down: Seating for Kids runs from 6 February to 5 September.

Sit down: seating for kids

  • The exhibition at the Museum of Childhood will feature chair designs by Charles Eames, Vitra and El Ultimo Grito, as well as Spotty, a 1960s paper chair designed by Peter Murdoch
  • The Ercol chair ‘arch’ that appeared at the Victoria &Albert Museum as part of the London Design Festival in the summer will be installed at the Museum of Childhood for the duration of the show

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