Eero Saarinen

Eero Saarinen was a renowned architect and industrial designer, who helped to craft the aesthetic of 20th century modern life. Eero Saarinen was born and raised first in Finland then in Michigan. His father was the architect and designer Eliel Saarinen, who led Cranbrook's Academy of Art and who also made a name for himself as a leading figure in architecture during the Art Nouveau period. Eero studied sculpture in Paris and architecture later at Yale. After returning to Cranbrook to work for his father's firm and teach in the mid 1930s, Saarinen worked closely with Charles Eames, Ray Kaiser (Eames), Harry Bertoia, and Florence Schust (Knoll). He and Charles Eames were recognized in 1940 for a chair design that they submitted to the Museum of Modern Art's Organic Design in Home Furnishings competition, where they received first prize. Eero would soon continue this line of work for an exhibition at the MOMA. While Florence and Hans Knoll were building their company, Eero was asked to design a number of works for them, including the Womb chair, Tulip series, Grasshopper chair, among others. In 1948, Eero was chosen to design the St. Louis Gateway Arch, which was eventually completed in 1965. Having designed so many recognizable pieces of furniture quite early in his career, Saarinen went on to design a considerable number of iconic architectural works. This includes the TWA Terminal at JFK Airport, the chapel and Kresge Auditorium at MIT, along with more than 50 other buildings. Eero Saarinen died in 1961 at the age of 51, helping to highlight the extraordinary nature of his accomplishments during that time.

As it relates to Saarinen's furniture designs, many are still produced to this day by the Knoll company. Whereas the Grasshopper chair and ottoman were not huge commercial successes, his upholstered executive seating, tulip tables, womb chair, and others are still found today in offices, noteworthy homes, and are specified by designers due to their visual simplicity and use of material. Many of his chairs take on upholstery brilliantly and were used to showcase some of Knoll's highly textured and brightly colored textiles. The Tulip tables are made in laminate, stone, and wood, often giving the tops an appearance of levitation, with support from cast iron and cast aluminum (depending on the era). Early Saarinen pieces have a notable patina that differentiate them from new production works, as white tulip bases take on a darker hue for instance and the seating with original upholstery can often be strikingly attributed to the period of production. In contrast, new Saarinen designs for Knoll are still made with the same quality and attention to detail as the early examples, while providing a crisp and polished finish, especially with the marble tables.

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