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Monday, October 3, 2011

Eero Saarinen

Eero Saarinen (1910-1961) was born in Finland and immigrated to the United States with his family in 1923. He was the son of internationally famous architect Eliel Saarinen. His mother was a textile designer and sculptor, and his sister was a designer and interior decorator.

Eliel Saarinen designed the Cranbrook campus outside Detroit, Michigan, but the entire family worked on the project. Cranbrook would remain a major influence on Eero's career, serving as a model of artistic collaboration and the concept of "total environment," which encompassed landscape, buildings, furnishings and decorative objects.

During the 1930s and 1940s Saarinen helped bring modern design to the mainstream of America. He collaborated with his father and with partners such as Charles Eames and Ralph Rapson, creating winning designs for furniture and architecture.

In 1937 he designed the Combined Living-Dining Room-Study project for Architectural Forum an during World War II, he worked on projects to develop housing prototypes for returning veterans and their families. Two of his best known residential designs are the Case Study House #9 with Charles Eames, better known as the Entenza House, and the Miller House, designed in 1957, which is a brilliant example of Saarinen's "total environment."

Saarinen's commercial works include the General Motors Technical Center, the United States Jefferson National Expansion Memorial, better known as the Gateway Arch, New York's Trans World Airlines Terminal and the Dulles International Airport Terminal outside Washington, D.C. Saarinen pioneered the use of self-rusting Cor-ten steel and designed the first mirror glass curtain wall, as well as the concept of the corporate campus.

Saarinen designed furniture throughout his entire career, exploring new materials, innovative construction techniques and sculptural forms. In 1940 he and Charles Eames won first prizes in the Museum of Modern Art's Organic Design in Home Furnishings competition, laying the foundation for his later designs for Knoll Associates. His Womb chair and Pedestal series of chairs and tables have become icons of mid-century design.


Case Study House #9 - Entenza House

Miller House

Tulip table from Pedestal series

Tulip chairs from Pedestal series

Womb chair

Grasshopper chair and ottoman

Dulles International

Gateway Arch, St. Louis


  1. have been a great admirer of his work, and as you mentioned, i liked his holistic approach to architecture....awesome!! I did not know his sister was into design as well!!

  2. @Sudha: The entire family must have been immensely talented.

  3. I'm so lucky I live in a city where there are TWO Saarinen buildings. The Yale Whale, my favorite, and the Ezra Stiles/Morse Colleges with no right angles. Sometimes I cut through the courtyard between them to get to the gym, it makes me feel like I am somewhere in Europe.

  4. @monogirl: Yes, you ARE very lucky to be where you can see them "up close and personal" whenever you like. I feel the same way about the Noguchi pieces in my town. It's nice to know I can visit them any time.

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