Eero Saarinen Portfolio of Selected Works

Whether designing furniture, airports, or grand monuments, Finnish-American architect Eero Saarinen was famous for innovative, sculptural forms. Join us for a photo tour of some of Saarinen's greatest works.

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General Motors Technical Center

Geese attracted to the man-made lake at the GM Technical Center in Warren, Michigan
Photo courtesy Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, Balthazar Korab Archive at the Library of Congress, reproduction number LC-DIG-krb-00092 (cropped)

Eero Saarinen, son of architect Eliel Saarinen, pioneered the concept of the corporate campus when he designed the 25-building General Motors Technical Center on the outskirts of Detroit. Set on pastoral grounds outside Detroit, Michigan, the GM office complex was built between 1948 and 1956 around a man-made lake, an early attempt at green and eco-architecture designed to attract and nurture native wildlife. The serene, rural setting of various building designs, including the geodesic dome, set a new standard for office buildings.

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Miller House

Miller House, Columbus, Indiana, circa 1957. Eero Saarinen, architect.
Photographer Ezra Stoller. © Ezra Stoller / ESTO

Between 1953 and 1957, Eero Saarinen designed and built a home for the family of industrialist J. Irwin Miller, chairman of Cummins, maker of engines and generators. With a flat roof and glass walls, the Miller House is a mid-century modern example reminiscent of Ludwig Mies van der Rohe. The Miller house, open to the public in Columbus, Indiana, is now owned by the Indianapolis Museum of Art.

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IBM Manufacturing and Training Facility

blue-tinted windows of Eero Saarinen-Designed IBM Center, Rochester, Minnesota, c. 1957
Photo courtesy Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, Balthazar Korab Archive at the Library of Congress, reproduction number LC-DIG-krb-00479 (cropped)

Built in 1958, shortly after the successful General Motors campus in nearby Michigan, the IBM campus with its blue-window appearance gave reality to IBM being "Big Blue."

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Sketch of David S. Ingalls Rink

Courtesy Eero Saarinen Collection. Manuscripts and Archives, Yale University.

In this early drawing, Eero Saarinen sketched his concept for the David S. Ingalls Hockey Rink at Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut.

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David S. Ingalls Rink

Yale University, David S. Ingalls Rink. Eero Saarinen, architect.
Photograph: Michael Marsland

Casually known as the Yale Whale, the 1958 David S. Ingalls Rink is a quintessential Saarinen design with an arching humpbacked roof and swooping lines that suggest the speed and grace of ice skaters. The elliptical building is a tensile structure. Its oak roof is supported by a network of steel cables suspended from a reinforced concrete arch. Plaster ceilings form a graceful curve above the upper seating area and perimeter walkway. The expansive interior space is free of columns. Glass, oak, and unfinished concrete combine to create a striking visual effect.

A renovation in 1991 gave Ingalls Rink a new concrete refrigerant slab and refurbished locker rooms. However, years of exposure rusted the reinforcements in the concrete. Yale University commissioned the firm Kevin Roche John Dinkeloo and Associates to undertake a major restoration which was completed in 2009. An estimated $23.8 million went toward the project.

Ingalls Rink Restoration

  • Constructed a 1,200-square-meter (12,700- square-foot) underground addition containing locker rooms, offices, training rooms, and other facilities.
  • Installed a new insulated roof and preserved the original oak roof timbers.
  • Refinished the original wooden benches and added corner seating.
  • Refinished or replaced the exterior wooden doors.
  • Installed new, energy-efficient lighting.
  • Installed new press boxes and state-of-the-art sound equipment.
  • Replaced original plate glass with insulated glass.
  • Installed a new ice slab and expanded the usefulness of the rink, allowing year-round skating.

Fast Facts About Ingalls Rink

  • Seats: 3,486 spectators
  • Maximum ceiling height: 23 meters (75.5 feet)
  • Roof "Backbone": 91.4 meters (300 feet)

The hockey rink is named for former Yale hockey captains David S. Ingalls (1920) and David S. Ingalls, Jr. (1956). The Ingalls family provided most of the funding for the Rink's construction.

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Dulles International Airport

Dulles International Airport by Eero Saarinen
Photo ©2004 Alex Wong / Getty Images

The main terminal of Dulles Airport has a curving roof and tapered columns, suggesting a sense of flight. Located 26 miles from downtown Washington, D.C, the Dulles Airport terminal, named for  U.S. Secretary of State John Foster Dulles, was dedicated November 17, 1962.

The interior of the Main Terminal at Washington Dulles International Airport is a vast space free of columns. It was originally a compact, two-level structure, 600 feet long by 200 feet wide. Based on the architect's original design, the terminal doubled in size in 1996. The sloping roof is an enormous catenary curve.

Source: Facts About Washington Dulles International Airport, Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority

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The Saint Louis Gateway Arch

Closeup of Gateway Arch in St. Louis
Photo by Joanna McCarthy/The Image Bank Collection/Getty Images

Designed by Eero Saarinen, the Saint Louis Gateway Arch in St. Louis, Missouri is an example of Neo-expressionist architecture.

The Gateway Arch, located on the banks of the Mississippi River, commemorates Thomas Jefferson at the same time that it symbolizes the door to the American West (i.e., western expansion). The stainless steel-plated arch is in the shape of an inverted, weighted catenary curve. It spans 630 feet at ground level from outer edge to outer edge and is 630 feet high, making it the tallest man-made monument in the US. The concrete foundation reaches 60 feet into the ground, greatly contributing to the arch's stability. In order to withstand strong winds and earthquakes, the top of the arch was designed to sway up to 18 inches.

The observation deck at the top, accessed by a passenger train which climbs the wall of the arch, provides panoramic views to the east and west.

Finnish-American architect Eero Saarinen originally studied sculpture, and this influence is apparent in much of his architecture. His other works include Dulles Airport, Kresge Auditorium (Cambridge, Massachusetts), and TWA (New York City).

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TWA Flight Center

TWA Terminal at JFK Airport by Eero Saarinen
Photo ©2008 Mario Tama / Getty Images

The TWA Flight Center or Trans World Flight Center at John F. Kennedy Airport opened in 1962. Like other designs by Eero Saarinen, the architecture is modern and sleek.

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Pedestal Chairs

Courtesy Eero Saarinen Collection. Manuscripts and Archives, Yale University.

Eero Saarinen became famous for his Tulip Chair and other streamline furniture designs, which he said would free rooms from the "slum of legs."

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Tulip Chair

The Tulip Chair designed by Eero Saarinen
Photo © Jackie Craven

Made of fiberglass-reinforced resin, the seat of Eero Saarinen's famous Tulip Chair rests on a single leg. View the patent sketches by Eero Saarinen. Learn more about this and other Modernist Chairs.

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Deere and Company Headquarters

Deere and Company Administrative Center by Eero Saarinen
Photo by Harold Corsini. Courtesy Eero Sarinen Collection. Manuscripts and Archives, Yale University

The John Deere Administrative Center in Moline, Illinois is distinctive and modern—just what the president of the company ordered. Completed in 1963, after Saarinen's untimely death, the Deere building is one of the first large buildings to be made of weathering steel, or COR-TEN® steel, which gives the building a rusty look.

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Craven, Jackie. "Eero Saarinen Portfolio of Selected Works." ThoughtCo, Aug. 26, 2020, Craven, Jackie. (2020, August 26). Eero Saarinen Portfolio of Selected Works. Retrieved from Craven, Jackie. "Eero Saarinen Portfolio of Selected Works." ThoughtCo. (accessed June 1, 2023).