Is a chair designed by an architect really any better than one by a furniture designer?

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Is a chair designed by an architect really any better than one by a furniture designer?

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Is a chair designed by an architect really any better than one by a furniture designer?

Alex Michaelis is an archetypal London architect. Linen shirt, strong hands, zipping from desk to desk in his former-church-hall office with its industrial lighting, white desks and parquet flooring. Today he is particularly fired up: his practice—Michaelis Boyd, founded with Tim Boyd in 1995—has landed the job of designing flats for the multi-million-pound conversion of Battersea Power Station. The pair have projects around the world (Michaelis is just off the red-eye from Johannesburg) and get plenty of work from the west-London elite—they bolted the now-infamous wind turbine onto David Cameron’s old home. So what is he doing messing around with chairs?

“I love chairs. In my house I have a huge number that I love—and, yes,” he admits, “it’s all the architect ones.” By this, he means what others might call design classics: Mies van der Rohe’s Barcelona chair, Le Corbusier’s Grand Confort, Eero Saarinen’s Womb chair. Even if you’re not familiar with their names, you’ll have seen them. Acres of travertine-floored lobby are scattered with the slack, steel X of the Barcelona, while the Womb, as enveloping as its name suggests, is a favourite of expensive hotels. Though these chairs are more than 60 years old, all are still in production—and all were designed by architects.

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