Artifort interview with designer Geoffrey D. Harcourt RDI
Reviving old memories with Geoffrey D. Harcourt RDI

Geoffrey D. Harcourt (1935, London) designed his first Artifort office chair program in 1962. His furniture is used frequently in offices, conference rooms and airports. In 1978 Harcourt was awarded ‘Royal Designer for Industry’. We revived old memories with Harcourt at his home.


How did you become a designer?
Harcourt: ‘‘I lived near a town called High Wycombe, which was then the centre of the Furniture industry in the UK. Because I had failed the exam to go to the Grammar School, I went to the Technical School instead, which had an emphasis on furniture and I made my first at 15! After Art School I won a place at the Royal College of Art and on graduating in 1960 I won a silver medal and a major travelling scholarship to the USA. When I came home I received a letter from Artifort. They had seen the chair that got me the silver medal and they asked me to come and do some designs for them.’ ’

Had you heard of the Dutch company Artifort at that time?
Harcourt: ‘ ‘I had never heard of Artifort and it was a big surprise to me. I immediately thought it was a brilliant opportunity to meet and see what they were about. I was educated to think that the industry would brief me about what they would want me to make. When I first talked to Harry Wagemans he told me that he had no brief and that I should tell him what to make, as I was the designer. This was quite new to me. It was quite a challenge to go back to the drawing board and come up with new things. They already had work by Kho Liang Ie and Pierre Paulin in production, so I felt the pressure to come up with something new.’’

I appreciated the craftsmanship at Artifort."

You have designed many pieces for the contract market, did this tie into your industrial education?
Harcourt: ‘‘‘I noticed that there was a gap in the product range of Artifort. For example airport seating was basically domestic seating in airports. So I went at it and started designing particularly for public places. I also did a lot of office chairs, which are all based on a plywood shell. Because of the facilities and substantial machines at the factory, I was able to use plywood shells. The F584 is an excellent example of that technique.’ ’

Your designs were reintroduced in the 2000’s. What did you think when you were called to help reintroduce your classics?
Harcourt: ‘ ‘It was nice to come back to Artifort. I was surprised and pleased to see that craftsmanship remained after the shift to the Lande Group. The craftsmanship in Lanaken is great. I once talked to a different manufacturer who wanted to produce my designs, but when I saw foam being cut with a breadknife, I started to appreciate the craftsmanship at Artifort even more.’’