Monday, 8 October 2012

Up until the other day we'd never featured ARKANA on the blog. Why?  Well, quite possibly because we're design snobs - come on, there's only one TULIP chair, and it's the one designed by Eero Sarineen for Knoll.  End of.  Just how Mr. Burke was able to take Sarineen's design and reproduce it so, umm, blatantly is beyond us.  But he did.  And here it is.  The seat has very similar dimensions to Saarinen's chair, but the pedestal features a four-legged propeller shaped base instead of the circular one seen on Saarinen's design.  Also, as with Sarineen's design, Burke's were crafted from fibreglass plastic and the pedestal bases made of enamel-coated aluminium.

So there you have it.  A rip-off.  But, rightly or wrongly, these 'tulips' are growing on us.

Images:  RetroAge via Deconet 


  1. Classic! I got over my design snobbery when I realised my champagne taste was on a beer budget! xx

  2. Burke, Inc., which manufactured the same chair here in the U.S., was headquartered in Dallas, where our store is, so the tables and chairs are plentiful here. I can tell you how they got around American patents laws, which are of two types:

    Utility patents - Protect inventors for 20 years.
    Design patents - Keeps a designer from being copied for 14 years. (Saarinen filed for a U.S. patent on the tulip chair in 1957, and it was granted in 1960. I know this because it's one of the patent applications my daughter prints for her Fabpats business.)

    These patents cannot be renewed, so after they expire, anyone can legally produce an exact replica. While they are in effect, there has to be some difference between the knock-off and the original. If the dimensions of the piece are different, or even if you produce the piece in a color that the original didn't come in, you're not violating the law. By changing the base, the Burke factory wasn't breaking any patent law. Whether or not it was ethical is another discussion.

    The Arkana line was manufactured in Bath, I think, but Saarinen's American patent wouldn't have mattered there anyway.

    I did a whole series about this on my blog, and I'm still not sure where I stand.

    1. Thank you for sharing your insights Dana - so interesting. We remember your series of posts which dealt with this 'inspired by' topic - in fact we tried very hard not to have a peek in your archive when putting this post together! From the little research we've done, it would appear Arkana Ltd had offices in Bath but the manufacturing was done from their factory in Falkirk, Scotland.

    2. About a year before I did the "You Look So Familiar" series, I did one about reproductions/knock-offs/reissues called "Is It Real?" You might enjoy giving it a look if you haven't seen it already, because it examines the issue from the point of view of a manufacturer, a collector and an heir.

      I always learn so much from your blog that I thought I'd try to return the favor in part by sharing something I remembered from my research. You are constantly introducing me to pieces that delight and edify me. Thanks for your wonderful blog!

    3. Thanks Dana! This is a really interesting topic, and we've bookmarked your posts to read when we have some downtime.

  3. This is the chair of the future man. No joke.

  4. I have four of these Arkana chairs.
    On two of them the swivel mechanism is loose.
    Does anyone know of any schematics online for showing me how to adjust/fix them?

  5. Well, I honestly like the Burkes chairs better then the Saarinen. I love the propeller leg way better for example.
    Interesting post and replies.



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