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Distinguished Alum Shares a Living Legacy to Inspire Furniture Design

Posted April 9, 2014 in Alumni

In this hyper-digital age, Furniture Design students in need of inspiration or creative direction can access photographic archives capturing the design process of virtually any piece of furniture they can fathom. But a digitized image lacks substance and soul. To feel the grains of a piece of furniture beneath your fingertips, to smell its finish, to gaze into its heart and history and explore the essence of its design and those designs that influenced it; this is where true understanding of the art is discovered.

KCAD Furniture Gallery

The KCAD Furniture Gallery is an indespensible resource for students (credit: John Wiegand) (click to enlarge)


Luckily for the KCAD community, the College’s already impressive collection of furniture just took another leap forward. After dedicating much of his life to amassing a significant collection of modern furniture, KCAD alum Jerryll Habegger, IIDA (Furniture Design, 65') recently donated over 30 pieces of that collection to KCAD's Furniture Gallery, with more donations planned for the future.

Jerryl Habegger poses with chair

Jerryll Habegger poses next to one of the many pieces of furniture in his personal collection (credit: Jerryl Habegger) (click to enlarge)

"It's like my entire life has been furniture and I've always pursued these things," he said. "You want to make sure that in the long run it gives somebody else pleasure, enjoyment and understanding."

Habegger enrolled in KCAD's Furniture Design program in 1962, well aware of the College’s important role in the rise of the furniture industry. After graduating, he went on to work as a custom furniture designer, interior designer, professor, and author. His seminal publication “The Sourcebook of Modern Furniture” can be found in the KCAD library and the 5th floor Furniture Design space. In 1995, Habegger was awarded KCAD's Lifetime Achievement Award for his contribution to the College and to the furniture industry at-large.

pieces from the KCAD furniture gallery

LCM Chair - Herman Miller 1946 (left) and B 40 Chair - Tecta Mobel 1926 (right) (credit: John Wiegand) (click to enlarge)

Habegger believes that through exposure to historically pivotal pieces of furniture, KCAD students can develop a fuller understanding of furniture design. He hopes that sharing his collection, including such historical gems as the modern King Tut Egyptian stool, Rietveld chair, and Aalto stool, will inspire students to create the future of the medium.

piece from Jerryll Habegger in the KCAD Furniture Gallery

Stools from Habegger's donated collection (credit: John Wiegand) (click to enlarge)

"One of my goals has always been to enhance the experience level of the students by exposing them to many different types of design ideas," he said. "[The scope of] what I have donated goes all the way back to the Egyptians, so it is very broad and represents every conceivable material."

In gathering pieces from designers and manufactures from around the globe, Habegger’s aim was to capture the historical legacy of modern design. One area of special interest to him is modern minimalist design.

"As I've seen products become more global and more generic, the one area that I think will become more important is what people call minimalism," says Habegger. "These are self-sufficient forms that one can contemplate because they have substance and an intrinsic beauty in the way the material is expressed."

Furniture Design student in the furniture gallery

Furniture Design student Eric Shroeder picks out a book from the Furniture Gallery library (credit: John Wiegand) (click to enlarge)

"The Furniture Design program is always in need of more pieces, both historical and contemporary, because they are vital resources for our students," says Gayle Debruyn, Chair of the Furniture Design program. "Over time styles often change, but they are all participating in the larger narrative of history. Understanding the past is key to shaping the future."

To see highlights from Jerryll Habegger and the rest of the KCAD collection, stop by the Furniture Gallery on the 5th floor. The gallery is open to anyone in the KCAD community.


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