For the "Organic Design in Home Furnishings" competition held by the Museum of Modern Art, Charles Eames and Eero Saarinen created an entire series of versions of the Organic Chair, each intended for a different sitting position. The designs were ahead of their time, but never went into production owing to a lack of technology. Not until after 1950 was it possible to produce (and sell) larger numbers of organically molded seat shells, such as the Eames famous Plastic Armchair or Saarinen's Tulip Chair. While the Organic Chair is a comfortable small reading armchair, the Organic Highback has a higher backrest and neck support. In addition, the armrests and seat area are broader and longer. Vitra Design Museum Collection
- Laminated seat shell, polyurethane upholstery, beech legs, stained black
- Height: 107 cm / 42 1/2 Inch
- Seat Height: 35.5 cm / 14 Inch
- Width: 85 cm / 33 1/2 Inch
- Depth: 78.5 cm / 40 Inch
Vitra is a Swiss company dedicated to improving the quality of homes, offices and public spaces through the power of design. Their products and concepts are developed in an intensive design process, bringing together engineering excellence with the creative genius of today’s leading international designers. It is Vitra’s goal to create furniture and accessories that are functional and inspiring. Founded in 1950, Vitra produces many products from internationally recognized designers such as Verner Panton, Isamu Noguchi, Eero Saarinen and Jasper Morrison.
Vitra Organic Highback Chair Designed by:
- Charles & Ray Eames , 1940
- Eero Saarinen , 1940
Charles and Ray Eames
Charles, 1907 – 1978 / Ray, 1912-1988
The prolific body of work of Charles and Ray Eames, which spanned from 1941 to 1978, extended well beyond their major achievements in furniture design, graphic design, architecture and film. Their influence on the aesthetic and social aspects of design made them two of the greatest industrial designers of our time.
Born in St. Louis, Missouri, Charles Eames grew up in America’s industrial heartland. As a young man he worked for engineers and manufacturers, anticipating his lifelong interest in mechanics and the complex working of things. Ray Kaiser, born in Sacramento, California, spent her formative years in New York’s modern art movements and participated in the first wave of American-born abstract artists. They met at the Cranbrook Academy of Art near Detroit in 1940. Cranbrook’s creed of better living through better design shaped their sensibilities and their shared agenda. They married in 1941 and moved to Los Angeles as the city was gearing up for World War II. Wartime experiments with new materials and technologies inspired the Eames’ low-cost furniture for Herman Miller and expanded ways for designers to work with industry.
In LA, they conducted plywood experiments in their apartment. The US Navy order enabled the Eames to rent an office on Santa Monica Boulevard in 1942 and to gather a group of collaborators including Harry Bertoia. They produced sculpture, chairs, screens, and tables in plywood. Herman Miller, the US furniture group, was persuaded to put some of these pieces into production by George Nelson, its head of design. All the Eames’ plywood furniture combined an elegant organic aesthetic with a love of materials and technical ingenuity. After the success of the plywood pieces, the Eames focused on other materials, creating furniture in fiberglass, plastic, aluminum and, for the 1956 lounge chair, leather and rosewood. The Lounge Chair became an icon of the 1960s and 1970s, becoming a must-have for all hip executives.
Their collaboration with Herman Miller continued and extended to Vitra, its European partner. Charles and Ray were equally influential at making respectable the then-neglected folk crafts not only in the US but also in India. These concerns dominated their later work in the 1970s when, able to live comfortably on their Herman Miller and Vitra royalties, they concentrated their creative energy on propagating their ideas in exhibitions, books and films.
Charles died in 1978 and Ray worked hard to complete any unfinished projects but having done so, did not seek new ones. She devoted the rest of her life to communicating their ideas through talks and writing. Ray Eames died in 1988, ten years to the day after Charles.
Finland, 1910 – 1961
Eero Saarinen, was born in 1910 in Finland and in 1923 the family emigrated to the US. He studied architecture at Yale, graduating in 1934. A Yale scholarship enabled Saarinen to travel to Europe but he returned to the US in 1936 to work in his father’s architectural practice. When his father died in 1950, Eero Saarinen took over the practice. Saarinen taught at Cranbrook Academy where he met Charles Eames in the late 1930s. Experimenting with Eames, Eero Saarinen co-developed new furniture forms and the first designs for furniture made of molded, laminated wood. In 1940 Saarinen and Eames took part in the “Organic Design in Home Furnishings” competition mounted by the Museum of Modern Art in New York.
For Knoll International Saarinen designed a great many pieces of furniture, including the 1948 Womb Chair, which was designed to make those seated in it feel as secure and cozy as a fetus in the womb. The Pedestal Group, dating from 1955-56, is collection of chairs and tables made of plastic and featuring only one central leg ending organically in a round disc on the floor. The very successful Tulip Chair belonged to this group. Eero Saarinen says he wanted to abolish the “miserable maze of legs.” In 1951 he designed the Saarinen Collection for Knoll, consisting of the still popular line of Executive Chairs. These chairs transformed the notion of what executive seating could be with its sculptural form and modern finishings.