Eero Saarinen

Designer of symbolic American landmarks like the St. Louis Gateway Arch, it goes without saying that Eero Saarinen played an important role in the shaping of modern architecture.

Eero Saarinen, born in Finland in 1910 to the internationally famous architect Eliel Saarinen, was a celebrated architect of his time, both for his innovation and the controversy surrounding his work. Criticized for inventing a new style for every job, Saarinen was continually pushing the limits of modern architecture and design.

Eero Saarinen is one of the leaders of the second generation of modernists following World War II. Design and innovation were in his blood. His Father, Eliel was the architect of Helsinki’s main train station and many other prominent buildings in Finland. His mother, Louise, was a textile designer and sculptor. His sister, Eva-Lisa was a designer and interior decorator. Eero began his work collaborating with his talented family. Eero’s father designed the Cranbrook campus near Detroit, a project his entire family collaborated on. Eero, while still in his teens, designed the furniture for buildings at Cranbrook. Following his father’s death in 1950, Eero launched his work as an independent architect.

Aside from his famous works of design and architecture, Eero Saarinen is most known for is efforts to make modern architecture mainstream in American practice. He is credited with his creation of “potent expressions of American identity,” (http://www.eerosaarinen.net) including airport terminals — including at JFK and Dulles airports — embassies and national memorials. His mission was to create a sense of community while helping to shape the American identity. Not only was Eero Saarinen known for his works on iconic pieces of American culture and identity, his work even forged into modern interior design. The Miller House, which was completed in 1957, was a culmination of his work, a design of “total environment,” including architecture, landscape and interior design.

Throughout his career in architecture, Saarinen designed furniture, continually seeking to use new and innovative materials, construction technologies and sculpture, all stemming from his design of buildings. His design of molded plywood chairs for the Museum of Modern Art’s Organic Design in Home Furnishings competition laid the groundwork for his future work with Knoll Associates. Some of his furniture designs include the Womb chair and the Pedestal series of chairs and tables.

Eero Saarinen’s career came to an untimely end with his sudden death in 1961. At the time of his death, he was working on nine projects, which he left uncompleted. Each of those clients continued working with his firm — Eero Saarinen and Associates — and many of his most well known works were completed following his death.