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News, 11/15/2007 | Consulate General of Finland, New York

Eero Saarinen: Architect of the American Century

Finnish born architect Eero Saarinen is best known for his iconic landmark buildings: the TWA terminal at JFK Airport with its swooping concrete vaults and the soaring Gateway Arch in St. Louis.

United States Jefferson National Expansion Memorial, St. Louis, Missouri, under construction, 1965 From the Collections of Arteaga Photos Ltd.

A retrospective exhibition of Saarinen's architecture will open at Michigan’s Cranbrook Art Museum in November 2007.

Saarinen was one of the most prolific, unorthodox, and controversial masters of 20th century architecture. His iconic masterpieces captured the aspirations and values of mid-20th century America.
His expressionistic designs helped to structure the glorious period following World War II that has been called the "American Century".

Despite being born in Finland to Finnish parents, Saarinen was often depicted by the American media as a quintessentially American architect. A celebrity architect of his time, he was completely conversant with the modern media. His architecture and furniture were featured in numerous fashion and other feature magazines such as Harpers Bazaar, Vogue and Playboy. Time Magazine highlighted him as one of the most influential people of his era by placing him on its cover in 1956.

Eero Saarinen with A Combined Living-Dining-Room-Study project model, created for Architectural Forum magazine, circa 1937 Photographer unknown. Courtesy Eero Saarinen Collection. Manuscripts and Archives, Yale University.

Saarinen's clients constituted a who's who of America’s most influential business leaders from Frank Stanton of CBS to IBM's Thomas J. Watson. Saarinen collaborated closely with his clients to create an architectural expression tailored specifically for each individual company. He was also keen on using the latest innovations in building techniques to capture the progressive attitude of the era. This didn't always please architectural scholars who criticized Saarinen's work for being too expressive or lacking distinctive style.

Saarinen's productive career was cut short by his untimely death in 1961 at the age of 51. At the time of his death, many of his most famous works were still under construction. Some forty years later, the first retrospective - Eero Saarinen: Shaping the Future - to celebrate this controversial master will give us a chance to rethink Saarinen's significance in American Modernism.

IBM Manufacturing and Training Facility, Rochester, Minnesota, circa 1958 Photographer Balthazar Korab © Balthazar Korab Ltd.

Eero Saarinen: Shaping the Future exhibition

The Cranbrook Art Museum in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, will present the North American premiere of the exhibition, Eero Saarinen: Shaping the Future in November 2007. The exhibition will explore the architect’s wide-ranging career from the 1930s through the early 1960s.

The exhibition is based on an international research effort that was launched by Kevin Roche's donation of the Saarinen office archives to Yale University. The results of this research project were published in the book, Eero Saarinen: Shaping the Future, which was published by Yale University Press in 2006.

The exhibition premiered in October 2006 at the Kunsthalle in Helsinki, Finland. Since then, it has been displayed in Brussels and Oslo. Following its presentation in Cranbrook, the exhibition will travel to museums in Los Angeles, Minneapolis, New York, Oslo, St. Louis, and Washington, D.C. It will end its tour in New Haven, Connecticut, in 2010, the centennial of Saarinen’s birth.
Eero Saarinen: Shaping the Future is organized by the Finnish Cultural Institute in New York, the National Building Museum in Washington, D.C., and the Museum of Finnish Architecture with the support of the Yale University School of Architecture.

The exhibition will run through March 30, 2008, at the Cranbrook Art Museum.

Eero Saarinen website

Cranbrook Art Museum

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Updated 11/28/2007

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