Chair, 'Tulip', fibreglass / aluminium / wool / rubber, designed by Eero Saarinen, Knoll Associates, New York, USA, 1956 / c. 1960
Eero Saarinen (1910-1961) ranks as one of the great designers of the 20th century. Born in Finland in 1910 to architect Eliel Saarinen, he emigrated to the US with his parents in 1923 and studied architecture at Yale, graduating in 1934. After travels in Europe, a period as a teacher at the renowned Cranbrook Academy, Detroit, and practice with his father, Saarinen established his own practice in 1950. Saarinen is best known for a number of innovative buildings designed during the 1950s, most notably the curved concrete TWA terminal, New York, 1956-62. Saarinen was one of the judges for the Sydney Opera House competition in early 1957.
Saarinen's design activities extended to furniture which was subject to the same innovative exploration of materials and form as his architecture. In 1940 he entered the landmark 'Organic Design in Home Furnishings' competition at the Museum of Modern Art, NY, with Charles Eames and in 1948 designed his now iconic 'Womb' chair for Knoll. The 'Pedestal' series was conceived between 1955-57, its revolutionary design dictated by Saarinen's professed aim 'to clear up the slum of legs' in contemporary interiors:
"The undercarriage of chairs and tables in a typical interior makes an ugly, confusing, unrestful world. Iwanted to clear up the slum of legs. I wanted to make the chair all one thing again. All the great furniture of the past, from Tutankhamun's chair to Thomas Chippendale's, have always been a structural total. With our excitement over plastic and plywood shells, we grew away from this structural total. As now manufactured, the pedestal furniture is half-plastic, half-metal. I look forward to the day when the plastic industry has advanced to the point where the chair will be one material, as designed."
(Aline Saarinen, Eero Saarinen on his work, New Haven, Yale Uni Press, 1962, p 68)
A forerunner of the one-piece plastic chair developed during the 1960s, the mass-producable 'Pedestal' series contributed a new aesthetic to chair design, using modern materials in a stylish, contemporary idiom. Such is their modernity, the 'Pedestal' series chairs have been in poduction since the late 1950s. This example is particularly significant because it was purchased by the donor in New York about 1960, soon after the chair was first produced, and has its original upholstery.