Eero Saarinen (Finland, 1910-1961)
Born to world famous parents, architect and Cranbrook Academy of Art director Eliel Saarinen and textile artist Loja Saarinen, Eero Saarinen was surrounded by design his whole life. It came as no surprise that Eero was helping his father design furniture and fixtures for the Cranbrook campus by the time he was in his teens. In 1929 Eero left for Paris where he studied sculpture before enrolling in the Yale architecture program the following year. In 1934, he returned to Michigan to teach at Cranbrook, work on furniture designs, and practice architecture with his father.
It was at Cranbrook that Saarinen met Charles Eames. The two young men, both committed to the exploration of potential new materials and processes, quickly became great friends, pushing each other creatively while collaborating on several projects. The most notable outcome of their partnership was the groundbreaking collection of molded plywood chairs for the MoMA-sponsored 1940 Organic Design in Home Furnishings competition. Their collection was awarded first prize in all categories, catapulting the young designers to the forefront of the American modern furniture movement.
Saarinen also met Florence Knoll (born Schust) at Cranbrook, who at that time was a promising young protégé of Eliel Saarinen. Florence spent all of her free time with the Saarinen family, including summer vacations to Finland. Florence and Eero developed a brother-and-sister-like relationship that would last the rest of their lives. Florence later recalled that her history with Eero made him her most honest and, often, harshest critic. When Florence joined Knoll in the 1940s, it was an obvious choice for her to invite Eero to design for the company.
In addition to his achievements in furniture, Eero Saarinen was a leader of the second-generation modernists. Constantly pushing material and aesthetic boundaries, Saarinen expanded the modern vocabulary to include curvilinear and organically-inspired forms not found in the work of his predecessors. Among his outstanding projects are the Dulles International Airport in Washington, DC, The Gateway Arch in St. Louis, Missouri, the TWA Terminal at Kennedy International Airport, and the CBS headquarters in New York.
With the Pedestal Collection, Eero Saarinen vowed to eliminate the 'slum of legs' found under chairs and tables with four legs. He worked first with hundreds of drawings, which were followed by ¼ scale models. Since the compelling idea was to design chairs that looked good in a room, the model furniture was set up in a scaled model room the size of a doll house.
Drawing on his early training as a sculptor, Saarinen refined his design through full scale models, endlessly modifying the shape with clay. “What interests me is when and where to use these structural plastic shapes. Probing even more deeply into different possibilities one finds many different shapes are equally logical - some ugly, some exciting, some earthbound, some soaring. The choices really become a sculptor’s choice.”
Saarinen was assisted by Don Petitt, of Knoll’s Design Development Group, who introduced several ingenious methods of model making. Together with a Knoll design research team, they worked out the problems arising in production. Full scale models became furniture and, with family and friends acting as 'guinea pigs', the furniture was tested in the dining room and living room of the Saarinen house in Bloomfield Hills.
The chairs we sell
The chairs show some normal wear on the base. Some of the paint is slightly chipped on the bottom, but nevertheless they are in good vintage condition.