Furniture for Everyman
By Brian Lutz
October 16, 2012
224 Pages / Over 200 Illustrations
Eero Saarinen is seated in a completed model of his famous and ubiquitous Womb chair, next to the chair’s patent from 1950.
Florence Knoll and Eero Saarinen were photographed in the Knoll Associates New York showroom prior to the official launch, in March of 1958, of the designer’s Pedestal Collection.
In the study, Saarinen surrounded himself with some of the markers of his career in furniture design. This 1959 photograph shows the “wall full of sketches” Saarinen had referred to in a letter he wrote to Hans Knoll in 1954. Furniture shown, from the left, include a cast aluminum base for the Pedestal chair, a Pedestal armchair, a side chair from the Organic Design competition, and a Womb chair with one of its earliest base designs.
The Organic Design in Home Furnishings exhibition opened on the 24th of September and ran until the 9th of November 1941. The New York Times commented: “The widest departure in the exhibition from conventional furniture is a new type of chair.”
In the executive dining room in the Connecticut General Life Insurance headquarters in Bloomfield, Connecticut, left, the Model 72 chair was combined with tables and a credenza by Florence Knoll.
The November 1955 issue of the journal Management Methods, right, featured a story on the Knoll Planning Unit’s masterful and efficient solutions to the design of the spaces at Connecticut General.
An illustrated brochure from Knoll Associates presented a playful and colorful treatment of the Model 70 Womb chair, to become part of what’s known as The 70s Series.
Saarinen’s models, using all available materials, such as paper and metal foil, allowed him to conduct his search for form without production constraints. It was in these experiments that he found the artistic and technical solutions for the Model 70 Womb chair.
Around 1950, Herbert Matter, a native of Switzerland and an internationally recognized photographer and graphic designer, became his own subject in a photography session for the Model 70 Womb chair. He designed an early Knoll Associates advertisement which featured the newly launched Model 70 Womb chair as well as his striking logo for Knoll.
Eero Saarinen’s Model 72 side chair, one of the three versions he originally proposed to Knoll, was launched in 1948, at the same time as the Womb chair.
In the Knoll Associates showroom, Florence Knoll showcased the Model 72 chair, creating a sumptuous residential dining room vignette with her marble-topped credenza and her walnut-veneered dining table with its crystal, china, and silver place settings.
In the late 1950’s, Model 72 chairs were featured in the Knoll Associates showroom in Milan, Italy, left. The CBS building by Eero Saarinen, right, completed in 1965–known as Black Rock–was a winner of the 1966 AIA award.
Don Petitt, a member of the Knoll’s development group, was assigned by Hans Knoll to go to Michigan to work for Saarinen on the completion of the design of Eero Saarinen’s Pedestal collection. Saarinen, who conceived of the new collection as tables and chairs with only a single leg, produced scores of design sketches in his exploration of form.
A 1980s brochure, left, touted the designation of the nickname Tulip in use at that time. Florence Knoll and Eero Saarinen, right, discussed the practical aspects of the cast aluminum Pedestal base as a production alternative to plastic.
One of the most celebrated, prolific, and unorthodox architects and designers of the twentieth century, Eero Saarinen has become a beacon of American modernism. While famous for his sculptural and bold architecture, such as the Gateway Arch in St. Louis, Missouri and the TWA Terminal at the John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York, Eero Saarinen: Furniture for Everyman is the first monograph to focus exclusively on his furniture designs. Featuring rare and never-before-seen archival photographs that span Saarinen’s technical work to his personal life, a preface by Florence Knoll, and a piece by designer and Saarinen protégé Niels Diffrient, Eero Saarinen is the authoritative and comprehensive guide to the furniture designs and legacy of the modern master.
About the Author
Brian Lutz is a former Knoll associate and the author of Knoll: A Modernist Universe (2010). He also contributed to the exhibition catalog for Eero Saarinen: Shaping the Future.