Released in 1956 by Knoll Associates the Tulip Chair by Eero Saarinen is one of 20th Century furniture design’s most instantly recognisable and endearing objects: its single pedestal leg and flowing organic seat shell setting it apart from anything that came before, or indeed has come since.
And the single pedestal leg wasn’t a chance development.
Describing his motivation when creating the Tulip Chair Eero Saarinen wrote:
“The undercarriage of chairs and tables in a typical interior makes an ugly, confusing, unrestful world. I wanted to clear up the slum of legs.” 1
And clear it up he did. Beautifully re-styling the “undercarriage” to a stem and thus giving his chair a form reminiscent of either a flower or a wine glass. Consequently both can be considered as the eponym.
Originally Saarinen wanted the chair to be created entirely from fibre glass; however, stability problems forced him to switch to an aluminium leg, albeit an aluminium leg coated with the polyamide Rilsan so that the visual effect is of a single unit. An important criteria for Saarinen who as a designer and architect always strove to create flowing, unified entities.
And in many ways the Tulip Chair can be seen as the culmination of Saarinen’s career long pursuit of creating a chair as a single unit; and so, given that it was his finally furniture design, a fitting tribute to the man and his work.
Although created as a project in its own right the Tulip Chair naturally went on to feature in several of Saarinen’s architectural works including Dulles International Airport, Washington, D.C. and the IBM Watson Research Center, New York.
The Tulip Chair by Eero Saarinen can be viewed and enjoyed as part of the Grassi Museum for Applied Arts Leipzig’s permanent exhibition “Art Nouveau to Present“.
And until September 16th 2012 as part of the special exhibition “The Essence of Things: Design and the Art of Reduction“.
1. MoMa Website. Accessed 14.07.2012