I’m pretty excited to announce that out of the plethora of answers to the game I posted, nobody got all the answers right. I’m happy to report that this black and white interior picture (fig. 1) stumped everybody. I’m lucky to have found it; there aren’t many pictures available online of the interior of Monsanto’s [...]
I’m pretty excited to announce that out of the plethora of answers to the game I posted, nobody got all the answers right. I’m happy to report that this black and white interior picture (fig. 1) stumped everybody. I’m lucky to have found it; there aren’t many pictures available online of the interior of Monsanto’s House of the Future. Opened in Disneyland’s Tomorrowland in 1957, it was demolished in 1967, when they decided, ten years later, the white, plastic, Modernist future previously depicted was just not tomorrow enough.
Earlier this year, a set of drawings used for the planning of the House of the Future showed up on Ebay(and sold for $8000.) All the twitter about this find on various blogs notes the strong Eames influence evident in the drawings. They are quite gorgeous, and just like many fashion sketches, look more stunning on paper than they did in practice (fig. 2.)
Saarinen was a long-time collaborator and lifetime friend with Charles Eames. In fact, Eames was inspired by Eliel Saarinen, Eero’s father, and was invited by him to attend Cranbrook to further study architecture. The group at Cranbrook at that time included Florence Knoll and Ralph Rapson (of Guthrie fame). For their first collaboration, Eames and the younger Saarinen designed a winning entry, a molded plywood chair (fig. 3) for an organic design competition organized by the Museum of Modern Art in 1940. The influence of the basic industrial structure of this chair’s design can be seen in the rest of both the designers’ careers.
Saarinen created a range of beautiful furniture with Florence Knoll. They designed such staples as the Tulip Chair and the Womb Chair, which will look familiar to millions and millions of people because of their inclusion in the best-selling PC game of all time: The Sims, a human-life simulation game. Stay with me, here–I can’t remember exactly how and when I became familiar with the Eames furniture by name; it might have been from visiting various museums as a child, or maybe some art history 101, but I do know that to millions of people who have never heard the names Saarinen, Knoll, or Eames, this modernist furniture is going to look very familiar. There is no doubt that IKEA has been evoking 40s and 50s furniture design in their extremely streamlined and industrial giant European operations, and that might give people a point of entry, but I swear I’ve furnished some of my Sims’ houses with a Knoll Saarinen Coffee Table, Tulip Chairs, and Stools multiple times (fig. 4.) Of course, these items aren’t named like so, but they are essentially identical. I don’t own the game anymore because my computer is too old, and the Walker decided not to buy a new graphics card for me even though it’s for work-related purposes so I don’t have any images of my perfect modernist house, but I sure wish I did.
Notably, however, people have taken it upon themselves to teach the Sims-playing world about the history of furniture design. There are millions of downloads available online for people who create their own furniture for the Sims, to be imported into the game and played with. Shino & KCR, a featured ‘artist’ at one of the biggest download sites, The Sims Resource, has a whole line of Eames inspired furniture (fig. 5). The Sims, already one of the biggest blurs between reality and technology, has recently engineered deals with H&M and more recntly, IKEA, to bring clothes that are available in real life and furniture that is available to purchase for your own home, into the game so you can purchase them for your own home. But on the computer.
And, with the steep dollar prices that accompany any Saarinen-designed furniture, a tulip chair in The Sims will only cost you a couple hundred Simoleons.
Extra, extra: This amazing featurette on Monsanto’s House of the Future. Part 1 and Part 2.
Answers: A, D, E, G, and H are Disneyland. B, C, F, I, J are Saarinen.