The Fair chairs, or Five Leaf chairs, were designed by Ronald Beckman and Ray Wilkes of George Nelson & Associates upon commission by Walter Dorwin Teague for the Gas Association Pavilion at the 1964 World’s Fair in New York. The concept of an upholstered cushion unit that could be economically produced and adapted to different seating needs began in 1956 with Irving Harper’s Marshmallow sofa. Only selling 37 sofas in the first year, no fabricator could be found to develop an economical way to produce the units and the elements had to be sewn by hand, making production costs of the sofa prohibitively expensive. Only 300 Fair chairs were made for the American restaurant in the Gas Pavilion at the World’s Fair.

Only 300 Fair chairs were made for the American restaurant in the Gas Pavilion at the World’s Fair. This is the first time since the 1964 World’s Fair that the chairs have been seen by the public. This is the first time since the 1964 World’s Fair that the chairs have been seen by the public.In 1962, the Catenary Chair system was invented by Ronald Beckman and Rodney Hatanaka, utilizing upholstered rectangles suspended on a cable. Expanding upon this novel idea of an economical upholstery unit, the seats of the Fair chairs are comprised of five U-shaped urethane foam segments. Realizing industrial methods not previously available, Union Carbide produced the self-skinning urethane foam segments by heating the foam in gas-fired ovens. The individual segments were then attached and set upon a steel base that was originally designed for Flexible Radius Seating, a form never realized that was designed by Beckman and Charles Burnett for Nelson & Associates in 1955. In total, 1500 segments and only 300 Fair chairs were made for the American restaurant in the Gas Pavilion at the World’s Fair. This is the first time since the 1964 World’s Fair that the chairs have been seen by the public.

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