Happy birthday Eero Saarinen!



Eero Saarinen (August 20, 1910—September 1, 1961) was a Finnish-born American architect, famous for many 20th century American buildings and furniture staples.


Saarinen was born in Kirkkonumi, Finland, but emigrated when he was 13 years old to Bloomfield Hills, Michigan. His father was an architect who taught at the Cranbrook Academy of Art, which he also designed. His mother was a sculptor. Saarinen took courses at the Academy where his father taught and adopted his father's view that architecture should include a "total environment," from landscapes to decór.

In 1929, Saarinen went to Paris to study at the Académie de la Grande Chaumière. He then went on to study at the Yale School of Architecture. After graduating in 1934 and taking a tour of Europe, he returned to Cranbrook to work at his father's firm. While there, he designed the popular "tulip chair," as well as the Crow Island School in Winnetka, Illinois and the General Motors Technical Center in Warren, Michigan.


At the onset of the Second World War, Saarinen was recruited by a former classmate to join the Office of Strategic Services. He was hired to provide designs for the Situation Room. (Image source)

After his father died in 1950, Saarinen formed his own firm. Some of the firm's most notable works include the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial (Gateway Arch) in St. Louis, Missouri, the Miller House in Columbus, Indiana, the TWA Flight Center at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York, and the main terminal of Dulles International Airport near Washington, D.C.. He also designed Milwaukee's War Memorial Center (below). Saarinen described the three major components of the design of the Memorial Center: 

"One is the base, which builds the mass up to the city level and contains an art museum; the second, on the city level, is the memorial court with a pool.... The court is surrounded by the polyhedron-shaped piers, which support the building and also make frames for the breathtaking views of the lake and sky. The third part is the superstructure, cantilevered outward thirty feet in three directions, which contains the meeting halls and offices of the veterans' organizations."


Saarinen's designs are known for their rationalism. He borrowed many elements from the first generation of modernists, but also used organic elements for his furniture designs. An example of this can be seen in his "womb" series.


In 1952, Saarinen was elected a Fellow of the American Institute of Architect and he won the AIA Gold Medal in 1962, the year after his death.

Selected works:


Jefferson National Expansion Memorial (Gateway Arch)



Miller House in Columbus, Indiana



TWA Flight Center at John F. Kennedy International Airport


 Dulles International Airport 


Related links:


Innovators of the Southwest: Bercy Chen Architecture Studio

Eran Chen: Embracing History, Creating the Future


Additional Info

  • Birthday Date: Wednesday, 20 August 2014
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