In the Studio: Tulip Chair

[Tulip Chair (2011) /Image & Artwork: designslinger studio]

In 1956, the same year that architect Eero Saarinen appeared on the cover of Time magazine, the Knoll furniture company released his Tulip chair to the market. He said, "The undercarriage of chairs and tables in a typical interior makes an ugly world. I wanted to clear up the slum of legs. I wanted to make the chair all one thing again."

[Tulip Chair (1956) Eero Saarinen, designer /Image & Artwork: designslinger studio]

The son of a Finnish architect and textile artist Saarinen began designing furniture as a teenager. His parents immigrated to the United States in 1923 after his father Eliel had gained world-wide acclaim for his entry in the Chicago Tribune Tower competition. Eero enrolled at the Cranbrook Academy of Art where his father became the school's director. His first noted foray into chair design came when he and fellow Cranbrook student Charles Eames won first place in a Museum of Modern Art competition in 1940 for their molded plywood chair. In the mid-1950s Saarinen was not only looking for a way to eliminate the unsightly clutter of legs, but produce a piece of furniture molded from a single piece of plastic. The fiberglass shell of his design couldn't support the weight of seated person, so he switched to an aluminum base coated in a resin that had the look and feel of the fiberglass.

Saarinen died in 1961 at the age of 51 after surgery for a brain tumor. His chair remains one of the most popular items in Knoll's extensive collection of modern classics.

See our take on Saarinen's jet age design at: Tulip Chair.

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