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Designer Spotlight: Eero Saarinen

Eero Saarinen, a famous architect and furniture designer, was born to world famous Eliel Saarinen and textile artist Loja Saarinen. Eliel was an internationally recognized architect and Director for the Cranbrook Academy of Art architect and Cranbrook Academy of Art Director. Because both parents were heavily involved with art and design, Eero spent his entire life surrounded by design. According to Knoll, he was often helping his father design furniture and fixtures for the Cranbrook campus in his early adult life. Eero studied sculpture in Paris before enrolling in the architecture program at Yale.

After school, Eero returned to his home in order to teach at Cranbrook, work on furniture designs and practice architecture with his father. While at Cranbrook, Saarinen met Charles Eames who he began to collaborate with in order to explore new processes and materials. Their partnership helped to create a groundbreaking collection of chairs made of molded plywood chairs for the MoMA-sponsored 1940 Organic Design in Home Furnishings competition. Their designs won them first place in all categories, pushing them to the forefront of American modern furniture design.

Eero Saarinen

Perhaps one of the strongest and longest bonds Eero would forge during his time at Cranbrook was with a young Florence Knoll, a protégé of Eliel Saarinen. The two designers developed a brother and sister like bond that would see them become each other’s most honest and at times harshest critic. When Florence invited him to design for Knoll he gladly accepted. It is there that he was able to test new designs and push boundaries in order to create some of his masterpieces that included the Tulip chairs and tables, the Womb chair. Eero was fascinated with creating the perfect curve and finding just the right line. Due to this desire he often built hundreds of models and full scale mock-ups in order to create his designs.

Eero Saarinen

To create many of his designs, including the Womb Chair, Saarinen and Florence decided to work a boat builder as many production techniques were still in their early infancy. The boat builder they found was experimenting with fiberglass and resin to help create manufacturing methods for the new chair. The trials saw many problems and failures but eventually found a design that worked. They created a chair that made the user feel like they were sitting in a cloud of pillows.

Eero Saarinen


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