many ways Eero Saarinen was a pioneer in modern architecture. Despite of a relatively
short career because of his death at the age of 51 Eero has produced more
buildings with great appeal that most architects can only dream of. His world
known masterpieces, such as the Gateway Arch in St. Louis, TWA Flight Center,
GM Technical Center, the Miller House and many others still leave spectators
marveling at their unique construction techniques and design solutions. Eero
made a great impression in the field of furniture design. The furniture line
created by Saarinen in collaboration with Charles Eames and Florence Knoll is extremely
popular and favored by many interior designers to this day.
Saarinen was born in Kirkkonummi, Finland in 1910 in the family of a prominent
Finnish architect Eliel Saarinen. His mother, Loja Saarinen was a talented
sculptor, textile artist, photographer and architectural model maker. She had
arranged an art studio in their home in Finland ( capps). Accoriding to an interview,
Eero gave later in life, he recalled that the whole family used to gather at
the studio and he would always draw. He was getting attention because he was
good at it, which made him want to draw more. (merkel, p 11). The environment
Eero grew up in had a crucial stimulating effect in his becoming an architect
in the future.
The whole family moves to Michigan, north of
Detroit in 1923, where Eliel gets a
position of a president of the Cranbrook Institute of Architecture and Design.
1926 a new campus construction is started at Cranbrook according to Eliel’s
plans. The entire Saarinen family is involved in the project. Eero was fifteen
at the time begins to work with his father. Eliel makes Eero responsible for
the design of the school seal, decorative metalwork, carved stone imps that
peer down from the walls, and some decorative tiles. The learning experience and
the influence of the father’s work on Eero in inestimable. They continue to
work together for fourteen years of Eero’s twenty- four year career.
the age of nineteen, Eero leaves home to attend art school in Paris. He exhibits
interest in sculpture and for some time considers pursuing this field of study
instead of architecture( roman-7). However, after his return to United States a
year later, he goes to the School of Architecture at Yale University in 1931.
Yale, Eero travels and works around Europe and in 1936 returns to Cranbrook to
work with his father and teach at the Cranbrook Academy of Art. Here he meets
contemporaries that had a great effect on his artistic vision in fields of
design, art and architecture(merkel 37). Among them were designers Charles and
Ray Eames, Florence Knoll, sculptor and designer Harry Bertoya, Benjamin
Baldwin and architects Harry Wesse nd Ralph Rapson and his Eero’s future wife,
sculptor Lily Swann.
continues to work at his father’s architectural firm gradually building his
reputation as an architect. In 1939 the firm with the son in charge Saarinen,
Swanson and Saarinen wins a competition for the Smithsonian Art Gallery in DC.
Now Eero is looking for more ways to express his own artistic vision and philosophy
apart from his father’s influence. The big breakthrough comes when Eero’s team
wins the architectural competition for Jefferson National Expansion Memorial in
Saint Louis, Missouri in 1947. (merkel 53).
projects start in with collaborative work with Eames brothers and the creation of
a lightweight tensile structure that earn national recognition in competition
sponsored by the Museum of Modern art