DATE - 1961

In 1961, two new terminal buildings were opened at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport, and the developers of this airport needed new seating. Around the same time, long-time Eames friend, Eero Saarinen, also asked for new public seating for an airport he was designing, the Washington DC area Dulles Airport. The Eames Tandem Seating was first installed at these two airports, but they have been made available worldwide and are found in service at hundreds of airports. Having already developed successful sling seating, in the form of the Eames Aluminum Group, which consisted of chairs for individuals, Charles and Ray Eames had already been thinking along the lines of developing public seating based on the concept of suspended upholstery.

Eames Tandem Sling Seating

The Eames Tandem Sling Seating design can be described in clinical terms. Nylon-covered sling seats are suspended in tension on a cast, polished aluminum frame, and are attached to an iron T-Beam in single rows of 2 to 6, in double rows of 10 or 12, or in combination with tabletops.” A heat-sealed sandwich of synthetic material, vinyl foam, and Fibrethin (similar to the formulation of the Eames Aluminum Group slings, but with a unique scoring pattern appropriate to the shape of these) is held between polished cast aluminum arms. The scoring helps keep the padding in place. Seat and backs are identical and interchangeable and can be changed on the spot in the event of wear or vandalism.

It seems straightforward enough, but there were many steps and much thinking involved in creating what we now call “the best in airport seating.” Charles often found himself having to explain to people that the “visual” was not the way they approached design. What’s particularly interesting about how Charles and Ray Eames approached the development of this design is the elaboration on what, instead of “the visual,” was important in the Eames design process. The important considerations were: “fitness to need,” budget, durability, maintenance, and replacement.

We’re not aware of any other airport seating that ticks all of the boxes. That’s why we call Eames Tandem Seating the best in airport seating. Hundreds of airports around the world provide Eames Tandem Seating to their guests, and it is suitable for many types of public places. Some Apple Stores have equipped their in-store theaters with ETS. The design is available in Europe and the Middle East from Vitra, and available in the United States and the rest of the world from Herman Miller.

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