Key facts

Chair (MOMA-Organic chair competition)
Architonic ID:
United States

Product description

In 1940, the Museum of Modern Art sponsored the ground breaking Organic Design competition to "discover a group of designers capable of contributing to the creation of a useful and beautiful environment for today's living." The museum collaborated with several manufacturers and department stores to produce and distribute the winning designs. The winner of the competition was seating developed by Charles Eames and Eero Saarinen. Three-dimensional compound curves and overall form of the Eames and Saarinen seating pointed to a new direction for modern design. The catalog for the show notes "a significant innovation was that, in the case of chairs by Saarinen and Eames, a manufacturing method never previously applied to furniture was employed to make a light structural shell consisting of layers of plastic glue and wood veneers molded in three-dimensional forms."
The complex wood shell of the chair was created by the Haskelite Corporation from an iron mold. The shell was then trimmed, fitted with rubber, finished, and upholstered by Heywood-Wakefield. It was the original intention of Eames and Saarinen to expose the wood veneer on the backs of all the chairs, in the end this was possible only in the side chair. Woven fabric by Marli Ehrman was chosen to compliment the exposed Honduran mahogany veneer. While limited production was done for the models in the Organic Design show at MoMA, full-scale production was never realized due to America's impending involvement in World War Two.
The designs created by Eames and Saarinen for the Organic Design competition directly influenced the direction both designers would take in their future careers as well as dramatically influencing the design of modern seating.
This example is in completely original condition and marked with a Heywood-Wakefield label.

Honduran mahogany, upholstery
18"w x 22"d x 33"h

Exhibited: Museum of Modern Art, New York, 1941

Literature: Organic Design in Home Furnishings, Noyes, pg.14-15.
Provenance: Lillian Saarinen
Private Collection