Eero Saarinen: He Made his Future his Present.

March 31st, 2010

The Womb Chair. Designed in 1948 by Eero Saarinen. The most perfect chair in the world. Comfort, sculptural lines, modern but yet timeless. I have been tracking and loving this chair for many many years…as long as I can remember (Because that is the kind of design nerd I am).

Saarinen lounging in his Womb Chair

Saarinen's Womb Chair

I just recently read an article in TIME magazine about the resurgence of recent interest in Saarinen.

Hockey rink at Yale, fondly called "the whale."

Currently, Yale is restoring quite a number of the buildings he designed for their campuses in the 1950’s: the hockey rink and residential complexes. A traveling show of Saarinen’s work has also been traveling around the country since 2006 and will end on January 31, 2011 at the Museum of the City in NYC. It is the first full career retrospective devoted entirely to his work. (I plan on making this show sometime in the fall, and if so, expect another geeked out blog about how awesome and future thinking this designer/architect/artist truly was. And how he has made such an impression on the world of design to this day.)

What is very cool about Saarinen, is that he designed his chairs, buildings, and structures aesthetically for the future…so in a sense, he made his future is present. “The wow factor in his buildings was a matter of structure, not sparkle. Saarinen was enchanted by the drama of powerful forms.” (TIME, February 1, 2010 issue)

Where did this “drama” come from? Well, his mother was a sculptor and his father was a Finnish architect. In fact, Saarinen had studied sculpture before switching to architecture. So there you go. He had the sweet spot: intellect and taste/artistry combined.

TWA Terminal at JFK International Airport

From the curve of the Gateway Arch to the womb chair, to the wide wingspan of the expanding rooftop of the TWA terminal at JFK International, these are all evidence of his sculptural aesthetic. I have to compare the experience of walking through the tunnel at TWA to what I would imagine the birthing journey to be like moving through the fallopian tunnel…and if I am lucky, ending my journey in the Womb Chair!

Sometimes when interest or trends point to an artist from the past, people still consider their work “retro” or classic. Even though Eero Saarinen passed away in 1961, I could never really consider his work retro…but rather modern, relevant, and always pointing towards the future horizons. His designs are still opening doors in the creative mind as well as inspiring architecture and design of the days to come.