Saarinen chair finds new home at DeVos


The DeVos Art Museum at Northern Michigan University has received one of Finnish-American architect Eero Saarinen’s famous “Tulip” chairs for its permanent collection.

DeVos Director Melissa Matusak said the piece was a welcome addition to the museum’s collection.

“It’s an important collection not only because it is a very fine chair but also because Saarinen was Finnish and we have a large Finnish culture in the area,” she said.

The chair, which Saarinen designed for the Knoll Chair Company in 1956, has won critical acclaim in the 50-plus years since its creation.

Most notably, the chair received the 1969 Museum of Modern Art Award, the 1969 Federal Award for Industrial Design and the 1962 Design Center Stuttgart Award.

The chair’s design also became a pop culture item when it was featured in the original Star Trek series from 1966-1969.

Saarinen is most famous for designing the St. Louis Gateway Arch, the General Motors Technical Center, the main terminal at Dulles International Airport near Washington, D.C. and numerous corporate headquarters, including IBM, John Deere and CBS.

He grew up in the community of the Cranbrook Academy of Art, where his father taught, and later studied there with Charles and Ray Eames and Florence Knoll.

In addition to the Tulip Chair, Saarinen also created the Womb Chair, the Grasshopper Chair and ottoman and the Womb Settee.

Matusak said the chair will first be put on display as a part of a show this spring that will highlight various standout pieces in Northern’s permanent collection.

Saarinen’s daughter, Susan Saarinen, and Mark Coir, former archivist at Cranbrook, gave lectures on the Saarinen family legacy at both NMU and Finlandia University.

The events were organized by the Finlandia Foundation International’s “Lecturers of the Year” Series. Knoll Studio donated two of Saarinen’s Tulip chairs for the presentations and a committee decided to gift one to NMU’s permanent collection and the other to Finlandia University.