Not currently on display at the V&A


1956-1957 (made)
Place of origin

Armchair (Tulip) Designed 1956-7. Moulded fibre glass shell on aluminium pedestal, all white. Seat pad blue.

Object details

Object type
This object consists of 2 parts.

  • Chair
  • Cushion
TitleTulip (manufacturer's title)
Materials and techniques
Fibreglass shell, aluminium base and wool upholstery
Brief description
Chair (Tulip) Designed 1956-7. Moulded fibre glass shell on aluminium pedestal, all white. Seat pad blue.
Physical description
Armchair (Tulip) Designed 1956-7. Moulded fibre glass shell on aluminium pedestal, all white. Seat pad blue.
  • Height: 81.2cm (Frpm Grey File)
  • Depth: 59.6cm (From Grey File)
  • Width: 66cm (From Grey File)
Gallery label
ARMCHAIR Designed by Eero Saarinen (American, 1910-1961) Manufactured by Knoll International, East Greenville, Pennsylvania, USA Fibreglass shell, aluminium base and wool upholstery 1956-57 This chair was originally intended to be moulded from a single piece of fibre-glass, However, the base proved insufficiently strong to support a sitter and aluminium was substituted. Circ.86-1969(1989-2006)
Object history
‘Structural Unity in new pedestal furniture’, article from ‘Design’ 1957, page 105:
"These pedestal chairs and tables designed by the American architect Eero Saarinen for Knoll Associates Inc, embody a revolutionary concept in furniture design. The pieces illustrated (fixed and swivel chairs, dining table, coffee and side tables) are prototypes, designed for mass production. The chair shells are of moulded plastics growing from a singe tapered aluminium stem. They represent the beginnings of a large programme that will eventually include complementary sofas and lounge chairs. By the elimination of legs, which as Saarinen says ‘become a sort of metal plumbing’ that in moulded chairs of this type leads to separation of seat from legs, a new spatial concept and a new organic unity was created. This unity is accentuated by single neutral colours – white, grey, beige and black with strong colours in the changeable cushions of upholstered foam rubber. The designs were conceived about four years ago and after many dozens of drawings, quarter-scale models were made and set up in a scaled model-room. Saarinen was assisted by Donald Pettit together with a Knoll design research team. The new furniture, after being installed in Saarinen’s house in Bloomfield Hills, where the family and friends acted as guinea pigs, was submitted to severe tests beyond those of normal domestic use. For instance, to simulate the exertion of a heavy man pushing up out of the arm chair, a 300 pound pressure was put on the arms 21,000 times before any deflection, which proved to be not permanent, was noticed. Saarinen has said, ‘I wanted to make the chair all one thing again. All the great furniture of the past, from Tutankhamen’s chair to Thomas Chippendale’s have always been a structural total."

Notes on Craftsman from: Hollis, R. 1970. Modern Chairs:1918-1970. The Whitechapel Art Gallery, London
"Architect. Born 1910 (Finland), died 1961 (USA). Trained Yale University after one year studying sculpture in Paris. Worked in collaboration with his father, Eliel Saarinen, 1936-50; own office, Eero Saarinen Associates, Michigan, from 1950; Designed furniture for Knoll Associates from 1946; chairs for General Motors Technical Centre, Warren, Michigan, 1950. Work shown in Organic Furniture Competition, Museum of Modern Art, New York, 1940 (First prize with Charles Eames in each of two main categories). Chairs shown in Les Assises, Musee des Arts Decoratifs, Paris 1968. Major architectural competitions won include Smithsonian Art Gallery 1939, US Embassy in London 1956. Gold Medal of American Institute of Architects posthumous award 1962; American Institute of Architects Honours award 1966. See: Aline Saarinen, editor, Eero Saarinen on his Work 1947-64 New York 1964. Eero Saarinen, Function, Structure and Beauty, Architectural Association Journal, July-August 1957; Allan Temko, Eero Saarinen London 1962"
Accession number
CIRC.86:1, 2-1969

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Record createdFebruary 1, 2008
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