Eero Saarinen – Finnish Furniture Designer

Posted on 27th July 2011 in Finland Designers

Eero Saarinen, Born in Finland on August 20, 1910, he is known as an architect and industrial designer. Considered one of the masters of American 20th Century architecture, he came to the United States in 1923 with his father, also an architect growing up in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan. Studying both sculpture at the Académie de la Grande Chaumiére in Paris and later studying architecture at the Yale School of Architecture, he graduated in 1934 returning to Finland then eventually coming back again to Michigan to work for his father and teach at the Cranbook Academy of Art.

Joining the military service in 1940, he was assigned the duty of illustrating bomb disarming manuals. It was during this time that he became friends with Charles Eames and the two began to collaborate together on modern furniture design. They designed a chair which they received first prize in the competition, “Organic Design in Home Furnishings” in 1940.

He continued to work with the Knoll furniture company designing the “Grasshopper” lounge chair and ottoman (1946), the “Womb” chair and ottoman (1948) and the “Womb” settee in 1950. While the “Grasshopper” lounge chair was not very popular the “Womb” chair did better. Constructed of foam over a molded, reinforced fiberglass shell with cushions filled with polyester fiber with a foam core, it typifies much of the modern furniture during this time.  Working with these new industrial materials, this led to him producing his most famous “Tulip Chair” or Pedestal group.

The “Tulip Chair” designed in 1955-56 was also produced by the Knoll furniture company located in New York. Like other industrial designers of the time who were also designing contemporary furniture, he continued to work with space age materials, continuing with his use of fiberglass. While his intent was to produce a one piece modern furniture chair he found that fiberglass as a pedestal base did not have the strength to support the chair. He instead designed a cast aluminum base with a finish that matched the chair portion to give the appearance of being one whole piece.

Continuing his success with architecture, he was known for his attention to detail which showed in the contemporary furniture that he designed. American corporations responded favorably to his ideas and commissioned him to design their headquarters; John Deere, IBM and CBS. Utilizing the minimalist lines that he had become known for he designed tightly rational exteriors contrasted with dramatic sweeping staircases incorporating modern furniture that he had designed.





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