The Tulip Armchair, which resembles the flower but also a stemmed wineglass, is part of Saarinen's last furniture series. This one-legged chair was meant to alleviate one of Saarinen's great concerns: clutter. Describing his intentions to simplify and clarify structure, he said: "The undercarriage of chairs and tables in a typical interior makes an ugly, confusing, unrestful world. I wanted to clear up the slum of legs. I wanted to make the chair all one thing again." Saarinen designed each piece in the Tulip series of furniture with a single pedestal leg, creating a unified environment of chairs, tables, and stools.
The Tulip chair also marks the culmination of Saarinen's efforts to create a chair molded from a single material, which furthered his design concept of "one piece, one material." But, while the elegant Tulip chair looks as if it is made of all one material, the sculptural fiberglass shell seat is actually supported on an aluminum stem with a fused plastic finish.
Tulip Armchair. 1955-56
Publication excerpt from The Museum of Modern Art, MoMA Highlights, New York: The Museum of Modern Art, revised 2004, originally published 1999, p. 220.