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Saarinen office staff: Don Pettit, Bloomfield Hills, Michigan.

Saarinen office staff: Don Pettit, Bloomfield Hills, Michigan.

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Summary

Eero Saarinen parents immigrated to the United States in 1923, when Eero was thirteen. He grew up in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, where his father taught and was dean of the Cranbrook Academy of Art. Saarinen began studies in sculpture at the Académie de la Grande Chaumière in Paris, France, in 1929. He then went on to study at the Yale School of Architecture, completing his studies in 1934. After that, he toured Europe and North Africa for a year and returned for a year to his native Finland for one year, and returned to Cranbrook to work for his father's firm "Saarinen, Swansen and Associates", and teach at the academy. 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 armchairs (1948–1950), and his most famous "Tulip" or "Pedestal" group (1956), which featured side and armchairs, 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. Further attention came also while Saarinen was still working for his father when he took first prize in the 1948 competition for the design of the Gateway Arch National Park (then known as the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial) in St. Louis. The memorial wasn't completed until the 1960s. One of Saarinen's earliest works to receive international acclaim is the Crow Island School in Winnetka, Illinois (1940). The first major work by Saarinen, in collaboration with his father, was the General Motors Technical Center in Warren, Michigan, which 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, which 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 such as John Deere, IBM, and CBS to design their new headquarters or other major corporate buildings. 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, Hill College House at the University of Pennsylvania, as well as an ice rink, Ingalls Rink, Ezra Stiles & Morse Colleges at Yale University, the MIT Chapel and neighboring Kresge Auditorium at MIT and the University of Chicago Law School building and grounds. Saarinen served on the jury for the Sydney Opera House commission in 1957 and was crucial in the selection of the now internationally known design by Jørn Utzon. A jury which did not include Saarinen had discarded Utzon's design in the first round; Saarinen reviewed the discarded designs, recognized a quality in Utzon's design, and ultimately assured the commission of Utzon. After his father's death in July 1950, Saarinen founded his own architect's office, "Eero Saarinen and Associates". He was the principal partner from 1950 until his death in 1961. Under Eero Saarinen, the firm carried out many of its most important works, including the Bell Labs Holmdel Complex in Holmdel Township, New Jersey, Gateway Arch National Park (including the 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, the main terminal of Washington Dulles International Airport, the new East Air Terminal of the old Athens airport in Greece, which opened in 1967, etc. Many of these projects use catenary curves in their structural designs. In 1949-1950, Saarinen was hired by the then-new Brandeis University to create a master plan for the campus. Saarinen's plan A Foundation for Learning: Planning the Campus of Brandeis University (1949; second edition 1951), developed with Matthew Nowicki, called for a central academic complex surrounded by residential quadrangles along a peripheral road. The plan was never built but was useful in attracting donors. Saarinen did build a few residential structures on the campus, including Ridgewood Quadrangle (1950), Sherman Student Center (1952) and Shapiro Dormitory at Hamilton Quadrangle (1952). These have all been either demolished or extensively remodeled. One of the best-known thin-shell concrete structures in America is the Kresge Auditorium (MIT), which was designed by Saarinen. Another thin-shell structure that he created is Yale's Ingalls Rink, which has suspension cables connected to a single concrete backbone and is nicknamed "the whale". Undoubtedly, his most famous work is the TWA Flight Center, which represents the culmination of his previous designs and demonstrates his neo-futuristic expressionism and the technical marvel in concrete shells. In 2019 the terminal was transformed into the TWA Hotel. Eero Saarinen designed the Kleinhans Music Hall in Buffalo, New York together with his father Eliel Saarinen. He also designed the Embassy of the United States in London, which opened in 1960, and the Embassy of the United States in Oslo. Saarinen 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 Saarinen's leaded glass designs are a prominent feature of these buildings throughout the campus. Eero Saarinen was elected a Fellow of the American Institute of Architects in 1952. He was elected a member of the National Institute of Arts and Letters in 1954. In 1962, he was posthumously awarded a gold medal by the American Institute of Architects. In 1940, he received two first prizes together with Charles Eames in the furniture design competition of MoMA. In 1948, he won the first prize in Jefferson national monument competition. Boston Arts festival in 1953 gave him Grand architectural award. He received the First Honor Award of the American Institute of Architects twice, in 1955 and 1956, and their gold medal in 1962. In 1965 he got the first prize in the US Embassy competition in London. Saarinen died on September 1, 1961, at the age of 51 while undergoing an operation for a brain tumor. He was in Ann Arbor, Michigan, overseeing the completion of a new music building for the University of Michigan School of Music, Theatre & Dance. He is buried at White Chapel Memorial Cemetery, in Troy, Michigan. Saarinen is now considered one of the masters of American 20th-century architecture. There has been a surge of interest in Saarinen's work in recent years, including a major exhibition and several books. This is partly because the Roche and Dinkeloo office has donated its Saarinen archives to Yale University, but also because Saarinen's oeuvre can be said to fit in with present-day concerns about pluralism of styles. He was criticized in his own time—most vociferously by Yale's Vincent Scully—for having no identifiable style; one explanation for this is that Saarinen adapted his neo-futuristic vision to each individual client and project, which were never exactly the same. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

date_range

Date

01/01/1917
person

Contributors

Korab, Balthazar, photographer
Saarinen, Eero, 1910-1961, architect
place

Location

Bloomfield Hills (Mich.)42.58361, -83.24556
Google Map of 42.58361111111111, -83.24555555555555
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Source

Library of Congress
copyright

Copyright info

No known restrictions on publication. For information, see Korab rights statement, http://www.loc.gov/rr/print/res/598_kora.html

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