He simplified the chair’s structure so that the sculpted backrest and arms form one continuous element. The turned legs rigidly support the deep seat rail and top piece without the need for stretchers, combining an expressive form that draws on Chinese precedents with natural materials and a rationally conceived design destined for the most exacting factory manufacture.
Bloemenwerf, Henry Van de Velde’s property outside Brussels, is the inspiration for this chair. Van de Velde planned and built the house and the interior—from the furniture to the wallpaper—resulting in a holistic design that exemplified the concept of a Gesamtkunstwerk “total work of art”.
Saarinen faced the problem of trying to treat the leg structurally and visually as part of the reinforced-plastic moulded seat shell with the help of a research team from the Knoll firm led by Donald Petit. This issue had plagued him since he and Charles Eames conducted their first experiments with moulded seat shells.
The name “Za” was chosen by Naoto Fukasawa, an industrial designer from Tokyo, and it means “a place to sit” in Japanese. It is a term that alludes to the multi-functionality of a simple stool that can be used anywhere, indoors and outdoors, an object that people will intuitively choose to sit on.