Charles Eames and Eero Saarinen developed the Organic Chair in 1941. They created the design for the Organic Design in Home Furnishings competition organized by the Museum of Modern Art in New York. Eames and Saarinen were awarded First Place in Seating as well as First Place for their Case Goods.
In an essay entitled “Organic Design” published in Arts and Architecture magazine, Charles explained the nature of the competition, which was open to new designers:
“It was attempting to put new life into an industry, which had become ingrown. Their aim and the aim of every competitor, I am sure, was to provide the largest group of people with good furniture within their means. The opportunity was a rare one because of the unique phase of the Competition, which provided contact with manufacturers and an outlet for the winning designs. In the three-way curve laminated shell construction and the rubber weld Eero Saarinen and I felt that we had found processes that would go a long way toward filling our ideas of the chair need.”
MoMA curator Eliot Noyes highlighted the Eames-Saarinen chairs for their design breakthrough. By molding a seat out of humble, strong, lightweight plywood, it appeared possible to produce an affordable, comfortable chair that could be mass-produced. Previously, that could only be done with expensive springs and heavy bolsters of upholstery padding.
Eames and Saarinen presented their award-winning design through small models and drawings; however, once they were connected with Heywood Wakefield for production, they discovered that the technology did not yet exist to mold plywood properly. As a result, few examples were produced.
Today, Vitra is the exclusive manufacturer and distributor of the Eames-Saarinen Organic Chairs. They come in three different models: Organic Chair, Organic Conference Chair, and Organic Highback Chair.