Eero Saarinen

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Eero Saarinen
Eero Saarinen
BornAugust 20, 1910
DiedSeptember 1, 1961(1961-09-01) (aged 51)
NationalityFinnish American
BuildingsSee list of works
DesignGateway Arch
Tulip chair

Eero Saarinen (August 20, 1910 – September 1, 1961) was a Finnish American architect and industrial designer of the 20th century. He was known for varying his style according to the demands of the project: simple, sweeping, arching structural curves or machine-like rationalism.[1]

Biography[change | change source]

Eero Saarinen shared the same birthday as his father, Eliel Saarinen.[2] Saarinen emigrated to the United States of America in 1923 at the age of thirteen.[3] He grew up in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, where his father was a teacher at the Cranbrook Academy of Art. He took courses in sculpture and furniture design there. He had a close relationship with fellow students Charles and Ray Eames. He became good friends with Florence Knoll (née Schust).

Beginning in September 1929, he studied sculpture at the Académie de la Grande Chaumière in Paris, France.[1] He then studied at the Yale School of Architecture until 1934. Later, he toured Europe and North Africa for a year and returned for a year to his native Finland. He returned to Cranbrook to work for his father and teach at the academy. He became a naturalized citizen of the U.S. in 1940. Saarinen was recruited by his friend, who was also an architect, to join the military service in the Office of Strategic Services (OSS). Saarinen was assigned to draw illustrations for bomb disassembly manuals and to provide designs for the Situation Room in the White House.[4] Saarinen worked full time for the OSS until 1944.[1] After his father's death in 1950, Saarinen founded his own architect's office, "Eero Saarinen and Associates". Eero Saarinen died of a brain tumor in 1961 at the age of 51.

Personal life[change | change source]

He married the sculptor Lilian Swann Saarinen. They divorced in 1954. He had two children from his first marriage, Eric and Susan. Saarinen then married Aline Bernstein Louchheim (March 25, 1914 – July 13, 1972), an art critic at The New York Times. They had a son, Eames, named after his collaborator Charles Eames.

Work[change | change source]

Furniture[change | change source]

Tulp chair.

Saarinen first received critical recognition, while still working for his father, for a chair designed together with Charles Eames for the "Organic Design in Home Furnishings" competition in 1940, for which they received first prize. The "Tulip Chair", like all other Saarinen chairs, was taken into production by the Knoll furniture company, founded by Hans Knoll, who married Saarinen family friend Florence (Schust) Knoll.

During his long association with Knoll he designed many important pieces of furniture including the "Grasshopper" lounge chair and ottoman (1946), the "Womb" chair and ottoman (1948), the "Womb" settee (1950), side and arm chairs (1948–1950), and his most famous "Tulip" or "Pedestal" group (1956), which featured side and arm chairs, dining, coffee and side tables, as well as a stool. All of these designs were highly successful except for the "Grasshopper" lounge chair, which, although in production through 1965, was not a big success.

Buildings[change | change source]

One of Saarinen's earliest works to receive international acclaim is the Crow Island School in Winnetka, Illinois (1940).

While Saarinen was still working for his father, he took first prize in the 1948 competition for the design of the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial, St. Louis. His arch not completed until the 1960s. The competition award was mistakenly sent to his father.

Saarinen's Gateway Arch in St. Louis

The first major work by Saarinen, in collaboration with his father, was the General Motors Technical Center in Warren, Michigan. It follows the rationalist design Miesian style: incorporating steel and glass, but with the added accent of panels in two shades of blue. The GM technical center was constructed in 1956, with Saarinen using models. These models allowed him to share his ideas with others, and gather input from other professionals. With the success of the scheme, Saarinen was then invited by other major American corporations to design their new headquarters: these included John Deere, IBM, and CBS. Despite their rationality, however, the interiors usually contained more dramatic sweeping staircases, as well as furniture designed by Saarinen, such as the Pedestal Series. In the 1950s he began to receive more commissions from American universities for campus designs and individual buildings; these include the Noyes dormitory at Vassar. Saarinen designed an ice rink, Ingalls Rink, and Ezra Stiles College at Yale University.

He served on the jury for the Sydney Opera House commission and was crucial in the selection of the design by Jørn Utzon.

Saarinen's architectural firm was called "Eero Saarinen and Associates". He was the principal partner from 1950 until his death in 1961. The firm was initially known as "Saarinen, Swansen and Associates", headed by Eliel Saarinen and Robert Swansen from the late 1930s until Eliel's death in 1950. The firm was located in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan until 1961 when the practice was moved to Hamden, Connecticut. Under Eero Saarinen, the firm carried out many of its most important works, including the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial (Gateway Arch) in St. Louis, Missouri, the Miller House in Columbus, Indiana, the TWA Flight Center at John F. Kennedy International Airport that he worked on with Charles J. Parise, and the main terminal of Dulles International Airport near Washington, D.C.. Many of these projects use catenary curves in their structural designs. Saarinen designed one of the best-known thin-shell concrete structures in America, the Kresge Auditorium (MIT). Another thin-shell structure that he created is the Ingalls Rink (Yale University), which has suspension cables connected to a single concrete backbone and is nicknamed "the whale." He is known for the TWA Flight Center, which represents the culmination of his previous designs and demonstrates his expressionism and the technical marvel in concrete shells.[1]

Miller House in Columbus, Indiana

Eero worked with his father, mother and sister designing elements of the Cranbrook campus in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, including the Cranbrook School, Kingswood School, the Cranbrook Art Academy and the Cranbrook Science Institute. Eero's leaded glass designs are a prominent feature of these buildings throughout the campus. Archived 2012-03-15 at the Wayback Machine

Saarinen died while undergoing an operation for a brain tumor at the age of 51. His widow, Aline, died of the same disease. His partners, Kevin Roche and John Dinkeloo, completed his ten remaining projects, including the St. Louis Arch. Afterwards, the name of the firm was changed to "Kevin Roche, John Dinkeloo, and Associates", or Roche-Dinkeloo.

Reputation[change | change source]

Eero Saarinen was elected a Fellow of the American Institute of Architects in 1952. He is also a winner of the AIA Gold Medal.

Saarinen is now considered one of the masters of American 20th Century architecture.[1] There has been more interest in Saarinen's work in recent years, including a major exhibition and several books. This is partly due to the Roche and Dinkeloo office having donated their Saarinen archives to Yale University, but also because Saarinen's work seems to fit in with present-day concerns about pluralism of styles. He was criticized in his own time—most vociferously by critic Vincent Scully—for having no identifiable style; one explanation for this is that Saarinen adapted his modernist vision to each individual client and project, which were never exactly the same.

Works[change | change source]

Main terminal of Dulles International Airport at night
Interior of the MIT Chapel
The Swedish Theatre at night
Remodelling of the Swedish Theatre, Helsinki (with Jarl Eklund)
Concordia Senior College campus, now Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne, Indiana[1]
The Law School at the University of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois.
The Miller House, Columbus, Indiana.
Berkshire Music Center, Opera Shed Tanglewood, Massachusetts.

Gateway Arch, St. Louis, Missouri

TWA Terminal at JFK International Airport
Washington Dulles International Airport
Kresge Auditorium and MIT Chapel at MIT
Bell Labs Holmdel Complex in Holmdel, New Jersey
Case Study House #9, the John Entenza House (collaboration with Charles Eames)
CBS Building (Black Rock) New York
Vivian Beaumont Theater in Lincoln Center, New York
General Motors Technical Center, Warren, Michigan
US Embassies in Oslo and London
North Christian Church in Columbus, Indiana
Law School and Woodward Court dormitory (demolished 2002) at the University of Chicago
Kleinhans Music Hall, Buffalo, New York; designed in collaboration with his father Eliel Saarinen
Ezra Stiles College, Morse College, and Ingalls Rink (affectionately known as "The Whale") at Yale University
Noyes House dormitory at Vassar College. Its lounge is affectionately called the Jetsons lounge because of its curved architecture.
Hill College House at the University of Pennsylvania. Originally a women's dormitory, the building was made with a "drawbridge" to symbolically keep men out.
IBM Pavilion, 1964-1965 New York World's Fair
IBM's Thomas J. Watson Research Center in Yorktown Heights, New York
IBM Rochester, a plant in Rochester, Minnesota
John Deere World Headquarters, Moline, Illinois
The "Tulip chair", popularized by its use on the original Star Trek television series (1966–69).
The "Womb" chair
North Campus, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan
Earl V. Moore Building, housing the University of Michigan School of Music
East Terminal at Ellinikon International Airport, Athens Greece, posthum finished.
Milwaukee County War Memorial Center, Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Medbury, Fitch and Harvey Ingham Halls, Quadrangle Dormitories ("The Quads"), Hubbell Dining Hall, and Oreon E. Scott Chapel at Drake University in Des Moines, IA* Firestone Baars Chapel at Stephens College in Columbia, Missouri.
Crow Island School

Related pages[change | change source]

Eero Saarinen structures Thin-shell structureTensile architecture List of notable brain tumor patients

References[change | change source]

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 Eeva-Liisa Pelkonen and Donald Albrecht (eds), Eero Saarinen. Shaping the Future (2006)
  2. Archived 2017-03-06 at the Wayback Machine, a very important architect in his own right, Eero Saarinen and Archived 2017-03-06 at the Wayback Machine Eliel Saarinen, Museum of Finnish Architecture (Finnish)
  3. Arkkitehtuurimuseo. "Arkkitehtiesittely". Arkkitehtuurimuseo. Archived from the original on 2017-03-06. Retrieved 2012-01-15.

Further reading[change | change source]

A&E with Richard Guy Wilson, Ph.D.,(2000). America's Castles: Newspaper Moguls, Pittock Mansion, Cranbrook House & Gardens, The American Swedish Institute. A&E Television Network.

Roman, Antonio (2003). Eero Saarinen. New York: Princeton Architectural Press. ISBN 1568983409.
Serraino, Pierluigi (2006). Saarinen, 1910-1961: a Structural Expressionist. Köln: Taschen. ISBN 3822836451.Merkel, Jayne (2005). Eero Saarinen. London: Phaidon Press. ISBN 071484277X.
Pelkonen, Eeva-Liisa (2006). Eero Saarinen. New Haven: Yale University Press. ISBN 0300112823.* Saarinen, Aline B., ed. (1968). Eero Saarinen on His Work. New Haven: Yale University Press.
Knight, Richard (2008). Saarinen's Quest, A Memoir. San Francisco: William Stout Publishers. ISBN 9780974621449.

An exhibition of Saarinen's work, Eero Saarinen: Realizing American Utopia, has been organized by the Finnish Cultural Institute in New York in collaboration with Yale School of Architecture and the Museum of Finnish Architecture. The exhibition will tour in Europe and the USA from 2006 to 2010. The exhibition is accompanied by the book Eero Saarinen. Shaping the Future.

In 1973, the Aline and Eero Saarinen papers were donated to the Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution, by Charles Alan, Aline Saarinen's brother and executor of her estate. In 2006, these primary source documents on the couple were digitized in their entirely and posted online on the Archives' website.

Other websites[change | change source]

National Building Museum