Mid Century Modern Icons: The Eero Saarinen Organic Chair

Eero Saarinen is internationally recognized as one of the American modernist designers that most of all contributed to reinvent the domestic and industrial design and spaces. Not only Saarinen was known and appreciated for his architectural works but he had a fundamental role within the furniture designs of the 1940s.

Most of the pieces he created became icons and benchmarks of the mid century modern period when forms, functions and materials took a completely new direction compared to the past.

saarinen organic chair

The Organic Chair represents the first step Saarinen did towards a completely new type of moulded plywood seatings that he developed across the mid century modern.

The chair was designed and developed with another pioneer of the moulding techniques applied to plywood, Charles Eames that -as Saarinen- was also interested in combining plywood and more traditional materials.

saarinen organic chair

The early prototypes the two designers developed together were so successful to win the Museum of Modern Art’s Organic Design in Home Furnishings competition in 1941; with the Organic chair having a key role in their exhibition entry.

Saarinen and Eames got inspiration from organic forms and by the possibility that new technologies and manufacture processes -as the ‘cycle-welding’- gave to use plastics and plywood laminates together or join rubber, glass and metal.

saarinen organic chair

The structure of the chair -made of a single piece of moulded plywood- became a milestone in post-war industrial design. However the shell-shaped structure, designed to support layers of glue and wood veneer, was only possible through a hand-manufactured process making the chair -at this early stage- difficult to mass-produce. That’s why, of its first version, only few pieces were built.

saarinen organic chair

Even though the Organic Chair study and development was fundamental for Charles Eames’ future works, its design is highly representative of Saarinen’s organic furniture  as well, as it lead him directly towards the creation of many other successful pieces for Knoll like  the Womb Chair, and the Tulip group of chairs that became icons of the mid century modern time.

I am sure you saw the Organic Chair before but, nonetheless, please let us know what do you think about it in the comments below! And if you want to read more amazing design stories of other mid century modern furniture, check now the Mid Century Icons page!

Pics via here, here and here.