Designed by Eero Saarinen in 1948, the fit-for-two settee was not part of the designer's famous trio—the Model 70 Womb Chair, Model 71 Executive Arm Chair and Model 72 Executive Armless Chair—but, rather, developed in anticipation of Saarinen’s first big architectural commission: The General Motors Technical Center in Warren, Michigan—a twenty-five-building complex that required furnishings for over 5,000 people.
Knoll decided to revisit the design in 2012. Design Director Benjamin Pardo remembers it as a trying experience. “We encountered all the same challenges they had in the late 1940s,” says Pardo. Like many of Saarinen’s furniture designs, the Womb Settee required production techniques and materials still in the infancy of their existence. Intended to stand up to heavy use within a corporate interior, the flexibility of the plastic shell, an asset in the Model 70 and 72 designs, proved problematic in the Model 73. Ultimately, Pardo and his team prevailed and the piece was welcomed back in 2015.
Of the clumsy, oversized models the Womb Settee was designed to replace, Saarinen wrote, “These dreadnaughts [have] disappeared from modern interiors partly because they were designed for an era that tried to impress by sheer mass.” While such robust forms may have gone out of vogue, Saarinen saw their necessary function as timeless: “The need for such chairs has not passed. Today, more than ever, we need to relax.”