The architect Kenneth McDonald is an interesting character from the mid-century period. During the early 1950’s, McDonald operated an architectural practice from 86 Collins St, Melbourne. The address is important for a number of reasons, as it was also the home of the architectural magazine ‘Architecture and Arts’, and a small furniture business called Meadmore Originals.
‘Architecture and Arts’ was first published in 1952, with the first 5 issues edited by young architecture student Peter Burns. By issue 6 (see above), McDonald had moved on from his position as Advertising Director, taking over Burns’ role as Editor.
In late 1952, McDonald had also formed a business partnership with Clement Meadmore. The business was simply called Meadmore Originals, but Meadmore’s involvement was to be short lived. In April 1953, planning to permanently move to London, Meadmore sold his share of Meadmore Originals to McDonald, who within 6 months onsold the business, along with the rights to some of Meadmore’s designs, to Wim Roosen. Meadmore would not contribute any further designs to the company.
McDonald’s dalliance with design was short lived, but during this time he produced 2 known chair designs. The first was a proposed new design for Meadmore Originals; a stackable corded chair based on Meadmore’s ‘Corded Chair’ (1951) first advertised in the Sept/Oct issue of Architecture and Arts in 1953.
The other chair, a far more intriguing proposition, appears in a registration application submitted by McDonald to the Commonwealth Patents Office on March 18, 1955. McDonald was notified on the 6th of April that he had not enclosed the prescribed lodgement fee of two pounds. On the 14th April McDonald posted the fee, which was received 4 days later, thus changing the date of the registration application to the 18th of April. Described in the application (33980) as the ‘Three Legged Stacking Chair’, and made of iron rod and plywood, the design is reminiscent of the work of high profile American designers Charles Eames and Paul McCobb.
One need only look at Eames’ 3 legged ply chair from 1944, or Paul McCobb’s 1535 Iron and Maple Dining Chair from the Planner Group (see above) to see similar design motifs to that used in McDonald’s chair.
In 1955, there was also another 3 legged stackable Chair created by an Australian designer. Meadmore had returned from London in November 1953, and re-established himself as a designer. In 1954 he released his now iconic Calyx lighting range and in February 1955 Meadmore’s 3 legged timber stacking chair was featured in Australian Home Beautiful magazine.
Whereas McDonald’s chair might be described as crude, Meadmore’s 3 Legged chair was arguably a far more elegant and resolved design, perhaps taking in European influences from designers such as Carlo Mollino and Gio Ponti.
Ultimately McDonald’s 3 Legged Chair was never registered, due to objections by the Patents Office that included small errors in the paperwork and his not supplying photographs of the underside of the chair. On the 8th August, 1956, McDonald was advised by the Commonwealth Patents Office that “as no action had been taken by you to remove the objections within the time allowed, the application has been deemed abandoned … unless an extension of time is applied for within fourteen (14) days from the date of this letter.”
On the 16th August McDonald applied for an extension, which was granted, but in the following year McDonald had still not addressed the objections and the application was deemed abandoned on 2nd May, 1957. It’s possible that McDonald had designed the 3 Legged chair as part of an intended new range for Rosen’s Meadmore Originals. Perhaps, he also felt that his design would ultimately be compared to Meadmore’s sophisticated design which had already found a place in the market.
By the later half of the 1950s, Architecture and Arts had moved away from featuring industrial design and interiors, shifting its focus to modern architecture and trade suppliers. It would appear that neither of McDonald’s chairs went into production, but the designs tell an interesting story of the influences and processes that shaped industrial design in mid-century Australia.
 Front cover of Architecture & Arts, Issue 6. Image: Author
 Advertisement in Architecture & Arts, Issue 6. Image: Author.
 3 Legged Stacking Chair, designed by Kenneth McDonald. Source: Design Registration File, 33980, NAA. Image: Gordon de Lisle.
 3 Legged Ply Chair, designed by Charles Eames, 1944.
 1535 Iron and Maple Dining Chair, designed by Paul McCobb, c.1950s.
 3 Legged Chair, designed by Clement Meadmore, 1955. Harris/Atkins Collection. Image: Author.