Knoll #70, Womb Chair

Eero Saarinen

Design: 1947
Production: 1948-93
Manufacturer: Knoll Associates, Inc.,
New York
Size: 89 x 100 x 90; seat height 43 cms
Material: fabric-covered and fiberglass
reinforced latex padding, tubular steel base

Eero Saarinen’s “Womb Chair” was the result of collaboration with Charles Eames and their joint attempt to mold laminated wood threedimensionally. These experiments led to the two winning the “Organic Design in Home Furnishings” competition held by the New York Museum of Modern Art in 1940. Eero Saarinen’s contact with Florence (Schuster) Knoll, who had studied together with him, Charles and Ray Eames, Harry Bertoia, and Don Albinson under Eero’s father, Eliel Saarinen at the Cranbrook Academy of Art, helped him develop the first chair with a plastic shell produced in large quantities. According to Florence Knoll, Saarinen sought to design a comfortable chair, which would allow several sitting positions rather than one rigid one, and incorporated a number of loose cushions. During the search for an appropriate carpenter for building the model, they discovered a shipbuilder in New Jersey named Winter who worked with fiberglass. Since this material has no structure of its own, it was more suitable than laminated wood for shaping even complicated curves and molds. Winter, however, did not believe this technology could be applied to furniture. But developing the plastic shell itself was less difficult than connecting it to the base. Numerous attempts were necessary to ensure permanent connection while retaining the flexibility of the shell. The latex-foam padding and loose seat and back cushions provided the desired comfort. Because of its overall popularity – the consumer liked feeling safe and sound as if in their mother’s womb – the chair was a commercial success. Saarinen set new standards from both a technological and a formal standpoint with this model and was granted a patent for the “Womb Chair.” PD

Eero Saarinen

Earo Saarinen and Charles Eames Knoll #70, Womb Chair