Eero Saarinen: The Architect Who Saw the Future
January 21, 2017 12:43 PM   Subscribe

American Masters explores the work of Finnish/American architect Eero Saarinen (or here), who designed the Gateway Arch in St. Louis, the TWA Flight Center at JFK Airport, the main terminal at Dulles Airport, numerous buildings for iconic US corporations, and campus buildings for Yale, MIT, Vassar, and the University of Chicago. Previously: JFK's TWA terminal, Bell Labs, Michigan Modern.

Eero Saarinen designed a number of well-known chairs and tables during his long association with Knoll furniture, including the Tulip chair used on the set of the original Star Trek series.

During World War II, he worked for the OSS, creating illustrations for bomb disassembly manuals and leading a group of model makers that built scale models to equip the situation room.

The Library of Congress, the Smithsonian's Archives of American Art, and the Yale University Library have extensive collections of photos and papers from Eero and Aline Saarinen - she was a prominent art critic and television host and was offered the post of ambassador to Finland.
posted by kristi (22 comments total) 47 users marked this as a favorite
 
His love letters to Aline are lovely, too!
posted by Jon Mitchell at 1:01 PM on January 21, 2017 [4 favorites]


This is all wrong. Eero Saarinen is famous for being in crossword puzzles.
posted by Bee'sWing at 1:26 PM on January 21, 2017 [16 favorites]


I used to think the main terminal at STL was a Saarinen design as to my untrained eye it looks similar to the TWA terminal at JFK. Turns out it's not though.
posted by LoveHam at 2:19 PM on January 21, 2017 [1 favorite]


This is all wrong. Eero Saarinen is famous for being in crossword puzzles.

And so's his dad.
posted by haapsane at 3:24 PM on January 21, 2017 [1 favorite]


I have issues with other things about Dulles (let me tell you about the subway that they ended at some future fantasy terminal location, meaning you get to walk and walk actually get to the gate), but the main terminal is lovely. Simple, airy, easily expandable (and designed to be so.)
posted by tavella at 3:27 PM on January 21, 2017


This is all wrong. Eero Saarinen is famous for being in crossword puzzles.

And so's his dad.


It's hard to...finish one without them.

*rimshot*

Seriously, though, thanks for this. Just started watching the American Masters episode. Good stuff!
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 4:19 PM on January 21, 2017 [5 favorites]


At MIT, Eero Saarinen designed a pair of buildings: the Kresge Auditorium and the MIT Chapel, both built in the mid 1950s.

The auditorium is capped by a concrete shell which is one-eighth of a sphere supported on three points. At its peak, it is thinner than an eggshell would be if you blew it up to that size.

(Nearby and within view of these two buildings is the Baker House dormitory designed by another Finnish architect, Alvar Aalto. )
posted by beagle at 5:01 PM on January 21, 2017 [1 favorite]


I saw this post and thought that Eero Saarinen had died! Boy was I relieved when I realized that he died in 1961.
posted by ActingTheGoat at 5:18 PM on January 21, 2017 [10 favorites]


His home at Cranbrook.
posted by CheeseDigestsAll at 5:42 PM on January 21, 2017 [2 favorites]


I live three miles northwest of the main terminal at Dulles, so I see it often. It is always stunning to me.
posted by candyland at 6:02 PM on January 21, 2017 [1 favorite]


The American Masters documentary is beautifully shot. Excellent use of drones to accomplish fantastic footage that used to be impossible. I've always been more of a Mies van der Rohe fan, but there is something sublime about Ingalls Rink and the Dulles terminal.
posted by enjoymoreradio at 6:17 PM on January 21, 2017


I worked at the architectural library when I was in college. I was constantly having to check out, check in and reshelve Eero Saarinen books. Out of curiosity I began to flip through them and found I rather liked his stuff. Still do...
posted by jim in austin at 6:22 PM on January 21, 2017


I've had the privilege of spending significant time in his magnificent Deere World Headquarters. Just a stunning structure and landscape--a visit to the public gallery is highly recommended if you're passing through the Quad Cities on I-80.
posted by TrialByMedia at 6:34 PM on January 21, 2017 [1 favorite]


The thing that amazed me is that while none of his works are less than a half-century old, you could reveal them today, and they would still awe. Dulles, more than any other airport terminal I've been in in the world, captures the imagination of flight. TWA, the future.
posted by petrilli at 6:49 PM on January 21, 2017 [2 favorites]


I'm about 10 minutes into this so far and its fantastic -- thanks for this link!
posted by Vitamaster at 7:15 PM on January 21, 2017


I have to say my (unformed) opinion of Saarinen changed when I found out that he had sex with the woman sent to Detroit by train to interview him, the very day they met.

He soon kicked his wife and two kids out of their Bloomfield Hills home, and married the writer of that story within a year.

I don't really consider that a great romance for the ages.
posted by 41swans at 7:47 PM on January 21, 2017


The JetBlue terminal at JFK has a rooftop lounge that looks right onto the back of the TWA terminal. I was just admiring it the other day.

I get to walk by this father-son project on my way to work every day. It's very lovely inside, but it is completely different from any other music hall I have been in; I grew up going to Heinz Hall in Pittsburgh, which is palatial (designed as a grand movie house by the same firm that did the Chicago Theater). Walking into Kleinhans for the first time was very refreshing.
posted by tippy at 10:55 PM on January 21, 2017 [1 favorite]


That house, like the striking Kingswood (girls' school) buildings on the same campus, is an Eliel Saarinen design, not Eero.

The two residential colleges (Morse and Stiles) he designed at Yale have always been unloved. The Whale, more popular, and rightly so, I think.
posted by praemunire at 11:06 PM on January 21, 2017


Saarinen's IBM Pavilion at the 1964 World's Fair made a huge impression on me even though I was just a kid. The giant egg covered in symbols, the seating that smoothly retracted up into it, and the announcer who descended before us on a tiny suspended platform made you feel you'd entered the future in a way the other Fair exhibits didn't quite convey.
posted by kinnakeet at 4:19 AM on January 22, 2017


I used to think the main terminal at STL was a Saarinen design as to my untrained eye it looks similar to the TWA terminal at JFK. Turns out it's not though.
posted by LoveHam at 5:19 PM on January 21 [+] [!]


Designed by Minoru Yamasaki, who was a good friend of Saarinen.
posted by Preserver at 7:45 AM on January 22, 2017


I was able to see this at its Michigan live premiere in early December, with Eric Saarinen (Eero's son, who features in the documentary) as a special guest. He spoke afterward a bit more about how he felt about his father following the affair and divorce (not surprisingly, he took his mother's side and hated his father for a good time) and how he was able to connect with his father as an adult through making this film (he was 17 when Eero died).

I've also been lucky enough to get a tour of the GM Tech Center in Warren, Mich. - another of his master works and recently designated as a National Historic Landmark.

Thanks for posting this, Kristi!
posted by Preserver at 7:55 AM on January 22, 2017 [1 favorite]


Great Man turns out to have been asshole; film at 11.
posted by acb at 4:45 AM on January 23, 2017 [1 favorite]


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