Reintroduced by Knoll in 2015, Eero Saarinen’s Womb Settee has been featured in the May 2017 issue of Azure magazine. Included in a list of “Products of Our Time,” which spotlights ten examples of designers and manufacturers adapting their practices to a more technologically advanced environment, Saarinen’s Womb Settee is revered for its improved injection molding and its stronger weldment, areas of weakness in prior versions of the Womb Settee.
The double-width version of the Womb Chair, the Womb Settee was launched in 1948 and lived a short life, stopping production only three years later. Simply multiplying the Womb Chair by two introduced many structural challenges; the arms of the design would often bend and, in some cases, break. The question of how to make the Womb Settee sturdier without compromising the design remained unanswered for decades.
As Azure points out, the advancements in technology have allowed for the re-introduction of Saarinen’s Settee, one that is easier to produce and more durable. A revision of the Womb Settee seems rather appropriate given Saarinen’s own obsession with building hundreds of models and full scale mock-ups to achieve the perfect curve, find the right line, and derive the most pleasing proportions. In many ways, Knoll’s revision of the Womb Settee echoes Saarinen’s very own practice.
The new version of the Womb Settee uses structural reaction injection molding (SRIM) to create a one-piece seat. The seat shell is reinforced with an added steel framework that is part of the shell itself. The combination of this new seat with an updated metal frame provides just the right support and prevents any bending.
The recognition of Saarinen’s design as a “product of today” serves as a testament to modern design’s ability to outlast time and contemporary fads. Attuned to modernist ideals, Saarinen’s Settee design harmoniously merges both craft and technology, forming a template that can be easily updated while remaining true to its original, modern design.