Eames Catalog


Kleinhans Chair

Kleinhans Chair 1939
By Charles Eames and Eero Saarinen
Two Eames biographers provide insights into the history of this design.
From page 36 of AN EAMES PRIMER by Eames Demetrios: "By 1939, Charles Eames was 32 years old and head of the design deparment at the Cranbrook Academy of Art, located just outside of Detroit. He had been there for a year os so, having practiced architecture in St. Louis for most of the decade. He had become good friends with Eero Saarinen, who was a junior partner in the architecture office of his father, Eliel Saarinen. Charles also worked on projects in the Saarinen office from time to time. At that time, Eliel Saarinen, who was also the head of the Cranbrook Academy of Art, was designing the Kleinhans Music Hall in Buffalo, NY. Saarinen Sr. was the architect of the building, and Charles and Eero designed the seating." Continuing on page 89: "So, on the Kleinhands furniture, Charles and Eero were not just collaborators, but co-conspirators exploring the curved form on a smaller scale and perhaps beginning to get a handle on the potential of molding plywood. Alvar Aalto, the great Finnish designer and master of molded plywood, had spoken at Cranbrook in the late 30s and so the whole community was aware of the material and his work forming it into simple curves. Whether the idea of the single-shell chair had formulated itself before the Kleinhans project is unclear. It is clear, however, that it is partially expressed in the Kleinhans chair." Referring back to page 36 again from this same book , "They (EAMES & SAARINEN) determined the single striking curve for the seat by doing some research, using an array of dowels to trace the shape of the human bottom and find the curve for the most comfortable support. Although these chairs were not mass-produced for the consumer market, one can see the possibility inherent in this design. The Kleinhans chair represents an important point in Charles's career because it was the first expression of his notion of wringing a solution from a single piece of material--a single-shell chair."
From page 50 of CHARLES AND RAY EAMES DESIGNERS OF THE TWENTIETH CENTURY by Pat Kirkham, "The building was designed by the Saarinens; Charles assisted with the seating, including an armchair (THIS EXAMPLE IS THE ARMLESS VERSION OF THIS SAME CHAIR) that reveals the influences of Alvar Aalto and the American designer Gilbert Rohde, and while Eliel and Eero Saarinen were in Europe he was left to draw all the furniture, including details and specifications."

 J.F. Chen Collection

Image: 1/4
image copyright / eames office


Kleinhans Music Hall, home of the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra, was built in the late 1930s and opened October 1940.

The music hall was built as a part of the last will and testament of Edward L. and Mary Seaton Kleinhans. The couple left close to 1 million dollars for the music hall’s construction. The building was designed by Eliel Saarinen with his son, Eero Saarinen and “was recognized as one of the greatest concert halls ever built in the United States”.

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