The 40/4 chair is recognized as one of the most important and groundbreaking designs of the 20th century for its compact stackability, excellent ergonomics and comfort, versatility, and timeless grace.
The 40/4 is the original compact stackable chair—40 chairs can be stacked in a height of just 4 feet. The enduring popularity of the chair is a confirmation of its adaptability and ageless presentation. It is regarded as the gold standard of stackable chairs for its unparalleled combination of compactness, adaptability, comfort, durability, and elegance. In 2000, it was named first among “The Top 10 Commercial Interior Products of the Past 50 Years” by Contract Design Magazine, which stated that, “It is unsurpassed to this day in engineering, sophistication and production.” Every detail of the 40/4 emanates precision and purpose. It is revered as a modern design classic.
The 40/4 is an indisputable icon of multi-functional design. The design stacks with incredible ease: two people can set up or stow away as many as 500 chairs in just 5 to 10 minutes. Each group of 40 chairs can be linked together in a matter of seconds to form parallel, connected rows and can be stacked together on a rolling dolly for even greater compactness and usability. A single stack of 40/4 side-chairs takes up just 5 square feet of floor space, 4 stacks of 160 chairs takes up just 20 square feet. The chair completely embraces the concept of flexible, multi-purpose spaces, making it possible for rooms both large and small to accommodate all types of events. The 40/4 makes it possible to store a “school room in a closet”— it creates space without taking up space.
The 40/4 affords remarkable comfort for long periods of sitting. Rowland achieved this all-important attribute after extensive research and full-scale experiments to find the form and contour that would best fit the greatest number of people. He employed his original measurement system, the MOD, or Maximum Order Dimensioning system, based on averages of human anatomy, to arrive at the ideal dimensions for his chair.
The 40/4’s elegant, minimalist design allows it to effortlessly exist within diverse architectural venues. It is used in historic, modern, public and residential buildings, being equally at home in St. Paul’s Cathedral in London, the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York, corporate offices, classrooms, restaurants, and private residences. It can be dressed to suit absolutely any application—in practical plastic resin, metal, finely crafted wood veneers, or leather upholstery.
The 40/4 chair is as strong and sturdy as it is refined. Its gentle, contoured lines disguise the chair’s rugged durability. Appropriate for extensive contract use, it is extraordinarily robust and is, without a doubt, built to last.
In cooperation with HOWE, beginning in 2004, Rowland designed new versions of the 40/4 to complement the original side chair and armchair. Today there is an extended 40/4 family, including a chair with an attached writing tablet, lounge chair, barstool, outdoor chair, all wood chair, and swivel chair. Individualized models are also available. It is now possible to furnish every room in a space using the same design language and aesthetic.
The 40/4’s timeless aesthetics and superior functionality made it an immediate success both in the U.S. and abroad. It gained instant recognition, and Rowland was one of only two Americans to receive the Grand Prix award at the renowned Milan Triennale—the other was Buckminster Fuller for his Geodesic Dome. The 40/4 is rightfully admired around the world as a standard of simple, sophisticated modern design.
It received the following prestigious awards:
Grand Prize at the 13th Triennale in Milan, Italy, 1964
International Design Award, American Institute of Interior
Designers (A.I.D.), 1965
Master Design Award from Product Engineering Magazine, 1965
Gold Medal Award for Furniture from the Austrian Government, 1968
Industrial Design Award, International Biennial Exhibition,
Rio de Janeiro, 1968
It is in the collections of the following museums:
The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), New York, NY
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY
The Palais du Louvre, Musée des Arts Decoratifs, Paris, France
The Victoria and Albert Museum, London, England
The Design Museum, London, England
Die Neue Sammlung, Munich, Germany
The Vitra Design Museum, Weil am Rhein, Germany
The Museu de Arte Moderna, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
The Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois
The Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
David Rowland first conceived of the 40/4 chair in 1956. Having been a bomber pilot in World War II and spending up to 12 hours in beastly uncomfortable seats on his missions, he vowed to design more comfortable, ergonomically correct seating if he survived the war. The 40/4 chair fulfilled this promise. With it, Rowland created an entirely new concept of furniture, which is profoundly expressive of contemporary life.
The journey of the 40/4 chair began one afternoon in Rowland’s New York apartment when he was experimenting with stackable chair designs and challenged himself to figure out a design that would allow the greatest number of chairs to fit into the smallest space. Eventually, he realized he could stack 40 chairs to a height of 4 feet. Rowland continued to develop the 40/4 in his spare time for the next eight years, constantly refining the design. He built 32 handmade full scale models in order to perfect the principles, form, and comfort of the chair.
Over those years, Rowland showed his chair to many furniture companies in an effort to license the design. After receiving numerous rejections, as well as a fleeting contract with Knoll, he finally signed a contract with the General Fireproofing Company (GF) of Youngstown, Ohio in 1963.
The first 40/4 order was for 17,000 chairs for the University of Illinois at Chicago Circle’s new campus, designed by Skidmore, Owings and Merrill, where Rowland’s design fit perfectly within the building’s bold, contemporary sensibility. The chair’s very first installation was at the Museum of Modern Art in New York for the opening of its new wing in 1964.
Upon its introduction, the 40/4 chair received instant recognition, winning the Grand Prize at the prestigious 13th Milan Triannale competition, First Prize from the American Institute of Designers (A.I.D.), the Master Design Award from Product Engineering Magazine, and a gold medal from the Austrian Government, among other awards. Today the 40/4 is in design collections, museums, and prestigious locations around the world.
In 1992 HOWE of Denmark bought the foreign rights to the chair, followed by the purchase of the U.S. and Canadian rights in 2013.
The 40/4 chair has been in continuous production ever since its introduction. More than 8 million, and counting, have been sold all over the world.
The 40/4’s unmatched versatility, ease of handling, and durability make it adaptable to a wide range of architectural settings, from corporate to educational to religious to residential spaces. Its quiet elegance complements and elevates any room that it is in.
The ease with which the chairs can be stacked and unstacked, ganged together, and stored makes them ideal for setting up very large spaces. The 40/4 powerfully embraces the concept of flexible, multi-purpose spaces, and deftly responds to the modern need for contract furniture.
Since 1964 there has never been a reduction in the popularity of the 40/4. It has transcended the circumstances of its initial production and continues to support and enhance the individual character of any building, be it historic or modern, that houses it.
The 40/4 can be found in the following locations:
St. Paul’s Cathedral, UK
Philadelphia Episcopal Cathedral, USA
New York University, USA
Reichstag Berlin, Germany
Nouvel Opéra, France
The White House, USA
Scottish Parliament, Scotland
St. Barnabas Church, Australia
Red Bull, USA Das Bauhaus, Germany
Radwick Racecourse, Australia
Edinburg Festival Centre, Scotland
Prague City Council, Czech Republic
Copenhagen City Hall, Denmark
The range of spaces in which the 40/4 appears throughout the world is a testament to its universal appeal. Two examples of the chair’s exquisite deployment can be seen in very different religious buildings: the modern, stark St. Barnabas Church in Sydney, Australia and the ornate, Gothic-style Canterbury Cathedral in the United Kingdom. Suffolk One school in Ipswich in the United Kingdom uses the full 40/4 family in a bustling educational environment, and the design works just as seamlessly and beautifully as in the religious locales. In these videos, you’ll see that all of these spaces use the 40/4 to very different, but equally powerful effect.
Visit HOWE a/s to buy Rowland’s revolutionary 40/4 chair and add an icon of multi-functional, minimalist design to any space.