In 1941, Elliot Noyes the curator of the Industrial Design Department at the Museum of Modern Art here in New York opened up the doors on one of his first major projects, “Organic Design in Home Furnishings. The exhibit would show for only a month and a half, but it forever changed how Americans view mid-century modern design, helping to transform it from a short-lived craze to an immortal style. The idea behind the exhibit was born a year prior, when Noyes, in his first year as the first ever curator of the museum’s Industrial Design Department, decided to hold a competition based around furniture. Inspired by his mentor Walter Gropius, and architect and the founder of the Bauhaus school, Noyes’ goal was to find the intersection between man and material, or as he put it “organic design.”
The competition, which brought together some of the design world’s biggest names, was ultimately won by Eero Saarinen and Charles Eames in a joint production between two of the most famous men to ever turn sketches into seats. The Saarinen/Eames chair was a design feat in that it looked like it hadn’t been designed at all – it was at once innovative and yet so simple that it easily could have taken straight from nature. This was Noyes’ vision come to life, and a year later when he put on the “Organic Design” exhibit in celebration of all the entries that he had received, it was a marriage of design and function.