Eero Saarinen, Architect of Finnish Modernism

(1910-1961)

American architect Eero Saarinen, eyeglasses, gesturing with hands, talking, seated at desk
Architect Eero Saarinen, c. 1960. Photo by Hulton Archive/Archive Photos Collection/Getty Images (cropped)

Whether designing furniture, airports, or grand monuments, Eero Saarinen is famous for his innovative, sculptural forms. Architecture and design was always in his blood, as his father was the prominent Finnish architect Eliel Saarinen. In 1923, when Eero was 13, the family moved to the United States, where Eliel became the first president of the Cranbrook Academy of Art in Michigan.

Background:

Born: August 20, 1910 in Kirkkonummi, Finland

Died: During surgery on September 1, 1961 in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Eero Saarinen was 51.

Education:

  • Cranbrook Academy of Art in Michigan. Eero Saarinen studied under his father and befriended fellow students Charles and Ray Eames.
  • Académie de la Grande Chaumiére in Paris, studied sculpture, 1929-1930
  • Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut. Architecture degree completed in 1934
  • Traveled in Europe on scholarship, 1934-1935

Early Career:

Eero Saarinen began his career designing furniture in collaboration with Charles Eames. Their work was featured in the 1940 exhibition "Organic Design in Home Furnishings" at the Museum of Modern Art in New York.

Famous Buildings:

Furniture by Saarinen:

Eero Saarinen was also a product designer. He designed furniture with curving, organic shapes. His most famous design may be the Tulip chair and the associated collection of pedestal tables. Saarinen said the objective of these furniture designs was to rid interiors of clutter and clear the "slum of legs" from the home.

Source: The Museum of Modern Art, MoMA Highlights, New York: The Museum of Modern Art, revised 2004, originally published 1999, p. 220 (online)

More About Eero Saarinen:

Although Eero Saarinen's early education was grounded in Art Nouveau, he was drawn to the streamlined International Style. However, Saarinen's most famous works, like the TWA Terminal at Kennedy Airport, are sweeping and expressive. Eero Saarinen is often cited as a master of Neo-expressionism.

Upon the architect's untimely and unexpected death, Saarinen's faithful and talented staff members, Kevin Roche and John Dinkeloo, took over the company and finished the many projects begun by Saarinen.

The world's largest and most comprehensive collection of Saarinen's papers are held in the Yale University Sterling Memorial Library Manuscripts and Archives.

Roche donated the firm's collection of Saarinen's original drawings, correspondence, photographs, and other materials. Saarinen's wife, Aline, gave the library many papers and personal records.