Eero Saarinen

Eero Saarinen

1910-1961 ( Finland)

Eero Saarinen was a 20th Century Finnish American Architect and Industrial designer. Born to world famous parents Eliel Saarinen and Loja Saarinen, Eero was surrounded by design his whole life.

In 1929 Eero studied sculpture before enrolling in Architecture. In 1934 he taught at Cranbrook, worked on furniture designs and practiced Architecture with his father.

It was at Cranbrook that Eero meet Charles Eames. The two collaborated to explore the potential use of new materials and processes and became great friends. The two created a collection of wood furniture designs that won first prize in the Museum of Modern Arts 1940 “Organic Design in Home Furnishings” competition.

It was also at Cranbrook that Eero meet Florence Knoll. Florence spent all her free time with the Saarinen Family and they developed a relationship that would last the rest of their lives. When Florence joined Knoll in the 1940s it was the most obvious choice for her to invite Eero to design for knoll.

For Knoll International, Eero Saarinen designed a great many pieces of furniture, including the 1946-47 "Grasshopper" armchair with bent armrests of laminated wood. In 1947-48 Eero Saarinen designed the "Womb" collection, which was supposed, as the name suggests, to make those seated on it feel as secure and cosy as a foetus in the womb. The "Pedestal Group", dating from 1955-56, is an Eero Saarinen collection of chairs and tables made of plastic and featuring only one central leg ending organically in a round disc on the floor. The "Tulip table" also belonged to this group, with which Eero Saarinen wanted to abolish the "miserable maze of legs". In 1951 he designed the "Saarinen Collection" for Knoll, consisting of several office chairs, one of the first lines in designer office furniture.
 

Always immersed in architecture, Saarinen first independent work, one that brought immediate renown, was the General Motors Technical Centre 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 Centre 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 such as John Deere, IBM, and CBS to design their new headquarters. 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 atVassar, 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 neighbouring Kresge Auditorium at MIT and the University of Chicago Law School building and grounds.

He served on the jury for the Sydney Opera House commission 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 which had eluded the rest of the jury and ultimately assured the commission of Utzon.

Eero Saarinen and Associates was Saarinen's architectural firm; 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 Bell Labs Holmdel Complex in Holmdel Township, New Jersey, Jefferson National Expansion Memorial (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, and the main terminal of Dulles International Airport near Washington, D.C.. Many of these projects use catenary curves in their structural designs.

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