Birthday: August 20, 1910
Nationality: American, Finnish
Died At Age: 51
Sun Sign: Leo
Born Country: Finland
Born in: Kirkkonummi, Finland
Famous as: Architect
Spouse/Ex-: Aline B. Saarinen, Lilian Swann Saarinen
father: Eliel Saarinen
mother: Louise Gesellius
children: Eames Saarinen, Eric Saarinen, Susan Saarinen
Died on: September 1, 1961
place of death: Ann Arbor, Michigan, United States
Cause of Death: Brain Tumor
Founder/Co-Founder: Eero Saarinen and Associates
education: Yale University, Yale School of Architecture, Académie de la Grande Chaumière, Cranbrook Educational Community
awards: AIA Gold Medal
Who was Eero Saarinen?
Eero Saarinen was a Finnish-American architect and designer. Regarded as one of the masters of 20th-century architecture in America, he was noted for his neo-futuristic style. His best works include designing the Gateway Arch in Missouri, the TWA Flight Center in New York, and the Washington Dulles International Airport. The son of famous Finnish architect Eliel Saarinen, Eero Saarinen grew up in Michigan where his father served as the dean of the Cranbrook Academy of Art. He started studying sculpture in France’s Académie de la Grande Chaumière in 1929. Saarinen then went on to complete his studies from the prestigious Yale School of Architecture in 1934. He initially worked for his father and received recognition while serving under him, for a chair designed for a competition in 1940. Besides being a successful architect, Saarinen was also a military officer in the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) where he served until 1944. He was married twice and fathered three children.
Childhood & Early Life
Eero Saarinen was born on August 20, 1910, in Kirkkonummi, Grand Duchy of Finland, to Eliel and Louise Saarinen.
In 1923, he alongside his family immigrated to USA where he grew up in Michigan. There, he took courses in furniture design and sculpture. While studying, Saarinen came into association with future architects Ray and Charles Eames and Florence Knoll.
Saarinen enrolled at the Académie de la Grande Chaumière in France in 1929. He then went to the Yale School of Architecture and completed his studies in 1934.
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Career as an Architect
Eero Saarinen began his career with his father’s company, Saarinen, Swansen and Associates. The firm was located in Michigan until it moved to Connecticut in 1961.
He first gained recognition when he alongside Charles Eames designed The Tulip chair for the Organic Design in Home Furnishings competition held in 1940. Their design brought them the first prize. That year, Saarinen also earned international acclaim for his design for the Crow Island School in Illinois.
Between 1938 and 1940, he alongside his father designed the Kleinhans Music Hall. Located in New York, this concert venue is much popular for its beautiful architecture.
Eero Saarinen’s popularity’s rose further when he got the first prize for designing the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial (now the Gateway Arch National Park) in 1948.
During the 1940s, he became associated with the Knoll furniture company and designed many pieces of furniture for them, including the Womb chair and ottoman, the Grasshopper lounge chair and ottoman, the Womb settee, and his most famous Tulip chair.
One of his major works alongside his father was the designing of Michigan’s General Motors Technical Center which was constructed in 1956. The success of this project brought Saarinen invitations from several American corporations, including IBM.
In the 1950s, the architect got offers from many American universities, including the University of Chicago Law School, the University of Pennsylvania, MIT, and Yale University.
Also in 1950, after his father’s death, Saarinen started his agency called Eero Saarinen and Associates. With the company, he contributed to several notable works, including Gateway Arch National Park in Missouri, the Bell Labs Holmdel Complex in New Jersey, and the Miller House in Indiana.
In 1955, he designed Kresge Auditorium, a thin-shell concrete structure in MIT.
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His other works with his father include the Embassy of the United States in Oslo and the Embassy of the United States in London.
Saarinen also collaborated with his sister and mother to design parts of the famous Cranbrook campus in Michigan, including Kingswood School, the Cranbrook School, the Cranbrook Science Institute, and the Cranbrook Art Academy.
Saarinen’s most famous work under Eero Saarinen and Associates was John F. Kennedy International Airport’s TWA Flight Center. The terminal was converted into the TWA Hotel in 2019. He also designed Washington Dulles International Airport’s main terminal.
Between 1950 and 1952, Saarinen designed some residential structures on Brandeis University’s campus, such as Shapiro Dormitory at Hamilton Quadrangle, Ridgewood Quadrangle, and Sherman Student Center.
Family & Personal Life
In 1940, Saarinen became a naturalized citizen of America.
He married his first wife, sculptor Lilian Swann, in 1939. They had two kids, Susan and Eric. The couple divorced in 1954.
The architect then married art critic Aline Bernstein Louchheim later in 1954. They had a son who was named Eames after Saarinen's friend and collaborator Charles Eames.
Death & Legacy
Saarinen died in September 1961 while undergoing a brain surgery. He was 51.
Now regarded as one of the masters of 20th-century architecture in America, he has inspired many designers and architects of future generations.
Many of his papers were donated to the ‘Archives of American Art’ in 1973. An exhibition of his work called ‘Eero Saarinen: Shaping the Future’ was held by New York’s Finnish Cultural Institute. It toured the United States and Europe from 2006 to 2010.