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The Isokon Penguin Donkey

Is this the coolest book/magazine rack you've ever seen? It was designed in 1939 by Jack Pritchard and Egon Riss for Isokon. Isokon was founded in 1929 in London to design and build modernist houses.

Isokon's best known project was the Isokon building in north London, which opened in 1934. They were intended for the new young hip workers of the 1930s, who wanted a small flat with servants' quarters down below. Daringly, the building included a nightclub, the Isobar. The building was famous as a center for artistic life; residents included Agatha Christie, and Henry Moore, Barbara Hepworth and Ben Nicholson often met at the Isobar.

Isokon also made furniture, and many teachers at the Bauhaus, including its head Walter Gropius, who were fleeing Nazi Germany designed for Isokon. Marcel Breuer designed several iconic pieces for Isokon during this time. Egon Riss was a Viennese designer who took refuge in London as well.

The Donkey was called that because of its four legs and two panniers on either side. It turned out that the side shelves were exactly the right size for the new paperback books being published by Penguin, so the publisher put leaflets for the Donkey inside the books, which was then renamed the Penguin Donkey.

1939 turned out to be a bad year to design an iconic piece of furniture. The supplies of plywood needed to make the bookcase dried up when WWII began. In 1963, Jack Pritchard revived Isokon, and it produced the Penguin Donkey 2 until 1980, when the company went out of business, but Windmill Furniture in London bought the design rights and began making the Donkey 3 in 1999.
· Isokon Plus [Official site]