Eero Saarinen

Eero Saarinen

Eero Saarinen was born in 1910, into a vibrant and artistic family history. He shared a birthday - August 10th - with his father, the acclaimed Finnish architect Eliel Saarinen, who taught at the Cranbrook Academy of Art during Eero’s younger years. 

At the age of thirteen, Saarinen and his father emigrated from their home in Finland to the United States, settling in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan. In 1929, he traveled to France, where he chose to study sculpture at the Parisian Académie de la Grande Chaumière. Upon returning to America, he attended Yale School of Architecture and graduated in 1934, before venturing back to Europe and North Africa. 

The young Saarinen later took courses in furniture design and sculpture at Cranbrook, where he became close friends with the acclaimed Eames’ duo (Charles and Ray Eames) as well as Florence Knoll and other groundbreaking designers and architects of the day. Saarinen also became a naturalized US citizen during this time period. 

In 1940, Saarinen and Charles Eames took part in a competition hosted by the Museum of Modern Art in New York, entitled “Organic Design in Home Furnishings.” During the nineteen-forties, the reputation of both designers would continue to flourish, though Saarinen chose to explore a wider variety of materials than the Eames’, who generally concentrated their efforts on newer and more innovative moulded plywood designs.

The 1947 Grasshopper armchair drew inspiration from the designer’s early explorations of wood manipulation, its bent laminate armrests contrasting perfectly with the soft material seat. In 1948, Saarinen released the acclaimed Womb chair and ottoman collection, designed to emulate the earliest secure environment of all human beings. In 1951, the Saarinen Collection was produced as a joint venture with Cranbrook fellow Florence Knoll. 

The Pedestal group - including the famed Tulip chair - followed in the mid fifties and expanded on Saarinen’s interest in plastic design and minimalism. In an effort to be rid of the “miserable maze of legs” often found on tables and chairs, Saarinen created the pieces with only one central support. 

As an architect, Saarinen’s career was unequaled. He designed the stunning and innovative TWA Flight Center at the J.F. Kennedy Airport in New York, which opened in 1962, before going on to draw blueprints for the Dulles International Airport in Washington, DC. 

Unfortunately, Saarinen would not live to see either of his airport designs opened to the public. He died in 1961, two weeks after his 51st birthday after being diagnosed with a particularly aggressive brain tumor. His furniture designs and architectural achievements continue to make an enormous impression on the modern world.

Products designed by Eero Saarinen
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