Eliel Saarinen – Finish furniture designer

Posted on 5th October 2011 in Finnish Designers, Furniture Designers

Born in 1873 in Rantasalmi, Finland, Eliel Saarinen had a prolific career as a Finnish architect notable for his works of art nouveau inspired buildings and other modern furniture. Educated at the Helsinki University of Technology, he graduated to work as a partner at Geselius, Lindgren and Saarinen. The Finnish pavilion at the World Fair of 1900 was his first major architectural work earning him the stylistic name of National Romanticism.

His interest in design also extended to unexpected items such as the Finnish markka banknotes introduced in 1922.

His interest in architecture expanded to include city planning as well working for five years on the Munksnas-Haga project and then as a consultant to the city of Budapest. Receiving a first place award for his plan for Reval in 1913, he continued his city planning efforts designing a plan for the city of Helsinki from 1917-18.

Moving to the United States in 1923, he set his sights on a plan for the Chicago lake front. He first began to teach in 1924 at the University of Michigan and then in 1925 after designing the campus of the Cranbrook Educational Community, he began to teach there. Becoming president of the Cranbrook Academy of Art in 1932, it is here he would meet and influence modern furniture designers, Ray and Charles Eames.

Continuing on to teach at the University of Michigan’s architecture department, the school continues to honor him until today with a yearly lecture series as well as named the A. Alfred Taubmen College of Architecture and Urban Planning after him.

Passing on July 1, 1950, he left behind an extensive legacy of important architectural works as well as his son, Eero who would become a prominent architect championing the International style. Ironically, both son and father share the same birth date.

Spoken of less are his modern furniture designs. Primarily designed for his family’s needs, the Boyschool Chair (1928) was designed for the dining hall of the boysschool at Cranbrook Academy of Arts. Typical of his designs, it included fine wood and leather with strong, uncluttered lines.

The Side Chair designed 1929-30, was used for his Cranbrook home. Of solid maple wood with a foam padded seat, the fluid clarity of line and form belies its quietly understated elegance. With a round dining room table topped with several different types of wood veneers, it made an impressive design statement.

The Blue Suite was designed for his wife’s studio in Cranbrook that included a chair, table and sofa. With an art deco inspired blue he also designed the Hannes chair, the White Suite and the Saarinen House Arm Chair group for both home and studio.

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Finnish Furniture Designer Eero Aarnio

Posted on 5th September 2011 in Finnish Designers

Furniture Designer Eero Aarnio

Furniture Designer Eero Aarnio – Images used to recall the 1960’s might include these: Twiggy, go-go boots, clear plastic bubble umbrellas and matching raincoats made from shiny, brightly colored plastic, and, of course, the iconic Ball Chair by Eero Aarnio.

Aarnio, a Finnish interior designer, was born July 21, 1932, became well known for his furniture designs, most notably the fiberglass and plastic chairs.

Upon completing studies at the Institute of Industrial Arts in Helsinki, he started his own practice. One year later, in 1963, he designed the Ball Chair – a hollow ball seat for one person on a stand. Referred to as a “room within a room” (his original prototype included a red phone built into the upholstery), is a cozy and peaceful atmosphere, insulating outside noises. While it reflects private space, that the chair can move about on its stand, allows the enclosed individual to see the outside world on his own terms, from his own perch.

In an interview with Aarnio, he explained, “The idea of the chair was very obvious. We had a home but no proper big chair, so I decided to make one, but some way a really new one. After some drawing, I noticed that the shape of the chair had become so simple that it was merely a ball.” Pinning a full-scale drawing on the wall, he “sat” in the chair to see how a head would be able to move seated within. In similar tests, he determined the height of the chair, making sure that it would be able to fit through a doorway.

In creating the chair’s prototype, he explained that he used “…inside moulding, using the same principle as a glider fuselage or wing.” The chair was finally laminated in fiberglass. “…the naming of the chair was easy, the BALL CHAIR was born.”

The chair, presented at the international furniture fair in Cologne in 1966, was quite the sensation, resulting in Aarnio’s designing an entire line of fiberglass designs. The design was followed by the Bubble Chair – a clear seat suspended from a ceiling. Aarnio’s other designs included the floating Pastil chair (modeled along an inner tube) and Tomato chair (a more stable seat between three globes).
His designs were an important part of the 1960’s culture, and were seen in sets of period science-fiction films. As the designs used simple geometric forms, they were ideal for the venue.

As fiberglass was known to be a dangerous material to those working in its manufacture, Aarnio replaced it with safer types of plastic. Toys and furniture for children are still designed by Aarnio.

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Alvar Aalto – Finnish Furniture Designer

Posted on 17th August 2011 in Finnish Designers, Furniture Designers

Being born in Finland right before the turn of the century in 1898, he made his mark on design in both the architecture and interior design world. Originally schooled and expressing his work in the Nordic Classicism style evolving to a modernist, organic style, Alvar Aalto approached furniture design from a total work of art approach. The integration of both the architecture of a building as well as the inside modern furniture design, textiles, paintings and finishes were considered and carefully designed to work as a harmonious whole.

Studying architecture at the Helsinki University of Technology, he graduated in 1921 and returned to Jyväskylä to open his own firm. There he met and married Aino Marsio, also an architect who through their association with the client, Harry and Marie Gullichsen during the late 1930’s encouraged them to move away from their more traditional designs and to become more innovative. This particular commission was to design a home for the couple that incorporated several influences including Finnish, Japanese as well as English and modernism.  He also saw this as an opportunity to create a model upon which mass housing could be produced.

Prior to this time he had spent working with plywood as the material of choice. In 1932 he invented a new form of laminated bent-plywood furniture. With patents obtained for these innovative techniques and influenced by the Bauhaus designers he met, his work received popular acclaim encouraging he and his wife to broaden their design efforts into forming a company called Artek that also offered glassware. While he is credited for having designed 500 buildings of which 300 were built, he was also known for his meticulous design of modern furniture producing pieces that performed seamlessly incorporating form and function.

In 1932, the Paimio Chair which in keeping with his desire to design the furnishings for his buildings, was to be included in the Paimio Sanatorium. Designed to allow a tuberculosis patient to be able to sit and breathe easily for long periods of time, it was made of birch wood with a cantilever design that seemed to defy gravity. These same materials were used for both the Three Leg Stool 60 and the modified Three Leg Stool X600 which provided style in a basic utilitarian fashion. In 1933, he included a four legged stool.

One of his more interesting chairs is the Armchair 400 covered with reindeer fur, again, made of simple bent birchwwod. One of his most famous accessories is the Aalto Vase which is a glass hand-blown vase allowed to follow modernist organic lines.






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Eero Saarinen – Finnish furniture designer

Posted on 14th March 2011 in Finnish Designers, Furniture Designers

Born on the same day as his father, Eliel Saarinen, on August 20, 1910 in Finland, he is best known as a Finnish American architect and industrial designer considered as one of the masters of American 20th Century architecture. His father, an architect in his own right, is best known for his work in the art nouveau style.

They came to the United States in 1923 where he grew up in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan with his father teaching at the Cranbook Academy of Art studying sculpture and furniture design. At the age of 19, he left to study sculpture at the Académie de la Grande Chaumiére in Paris returning to attend the Yale School of Architecture.

Graduating in 1934, he returned to Finland for a year with a tour of Europe and North America the previous year, eventually to return once again to Michigan to work for his father and teach as the academy as well.

Joining the military service in 1940, he was assigned to draw illustrations for bomb disassembly manuals and provide designs for the Situation Room in the White House. He worked for the Office of Strategic Services until 1944. During this time he collaborated with his friend Charles Eames and designed the “Tulip Chair” which they received first prize in the competition, “Organic Design in Home Furnishings” in 1940 which was produced by the Knoll furniture company.

He continued to work with him designing the “Grasshopper” lounge chair and ottoman, the “Womb” chair and ottoman producing his most famous “Tulip” or Pedestal group in 1956.

Receiving early acclaim for his work the Crow Island School in Winnetka, Illinois he went on to collaborate with his father to design the General Motors Technical Center in Warren, Michigan following in the rationalist Miesian style incorporating steel and glass with almost machine like precision. His attention to detail and insistence on being actively engaged in every level of his buildings from design through to construction is suggested by some as the reason for his early demise at the age of 51.

American corporations responded favorably to his ideas and commissioned him to design their headquarters; John Deere, IBM and CBS. Tightly rational exteriors where contrasted with dramatic sweeping staircases incorporating furniture that he had designed.

In 1948, he won first prize in the competition for the design of the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial in St. Louis. He designed the Gateway Arch known as the “Gateway to the West” signified by a simple, sweeping arching structural curve.

In 1950, he began to receive commissions for American universities, opening his own architectural firm, “Eero Saarinen and Associates” two years after his father’s death. He is best known for his work utilizing thin-shell concrete structures best shown in the Kresge Auditorium in MIT. Other great works by Saarinen include the TWA Flight center at John F. Kennedy International Airport and the main terminal of Dulles International Airport near Washington, D.C. using caternary curves in its structural design. This parabolic shape was used in the Ingalls Rink at Yale University which because of the shape of the suspension cables connected to a single concrete backbone, has been nicknamed “the whale”.

He also continued to be a part of the Cranbrook school, the place his father would first work at and then he, designing elements for the campus as well as designing leaded glass that are still a prominent feature among the buildings on the campus until today.

He died while undergoing surgery for a brain tumor who would be followed by his wife, Aline for the same condition. After his death, his architectural firm was renamed “Kevin Roche, John Dinkeloo and Associates” who completed his projects including the St. Louis Arch.

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Finnish Designer Alvar Aalto

Posted on 16th February 2011 in Finnish Designers, Furniture Designers

Young Alvar AaltoAs the early 20th century unfolded, a great many furniture designers came out of the woodworks as the tools, machinery and materials available changed and inspired an entire industry. One of these early designers was Alvar Aalto, a Finnish architect and designer from Kuortane. Just as the rest of the world was exploding in creativity and industry, so was Finland.

Aalto  was known for a meticulous yet humanistic approach to modern design. After completing school at the Helsinki University of Technology in 1921, Aalto went to Jyvaskyla to start working as an architect and furniture designer.

As one of the top influencers in a modern furniture movement in Scandinavia, Aalto had works criss-crossing the country. Aalto was also extremely well known for his glass-blowing work and it is his legendary designs that still live on today. The Aalto vase has earned international acclaim after its initial presentation in 1937 at the Pair World Exhi Continue reading “Finnish Designer Alvar Aalto” »

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