David Rowland (C’49)

Designing seating on the fly

David Rowland grew up immersed in art, accompanying his parents to California Art Club meetings at Frank Lloyd Wright’s Hollyhock House. But after hundreds of flight hours in a B-17 bomber, he had designs on a more practical career.

After World War II, Rowland enrolled at Principia College. The idyllic campus and Maybeck architecture inspired him: “War was hell; Principia was heaven.” With a BS in Physics and the discom- fort of those B-17 seats still on his mind, David set off on a design career.

During graduate school at Michigan’s Cranbrook Academy, he designed the license plate gas cap cover, which became a staple on cars built in nearby Detroit. But Rowland never lost sight of his passion—stylish, ergonomic, and practical seating. In 1964, he introduced the “first truly stackable chair”—the award-winning 40/4 chair. An iconic design, “unsurpassed to this day in engineering, sophistication, and production,” the 40/4 chair is as enduring as it is practical.

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