Born in Finland, Eero Saarinen (1910 – 1961) is recognized today as one of America’s most influential architects of the 20th Century. The exhibition at the Architecture and Design Museum will highlight his short but brilliant career beginning with the Smithsonian Gallery of Art Competition in 1939 and culminating with Dulles Airport in 1962 and highlighting his influence on design in mid-Century America.
Saarinen is recognized today as one of the America’s most influential architects of the 20th Century. He has built numerous corporate, educational, cultural public and private buildings with such recognizable icons as the St. Louis Gateway Arch, the TWA terminal at JFK, and Dulles Airport.
This exhibition is a tribute to Saarinen’s short and brilliant career which was bookended with two iconic buildings: the Smithsonian Gallery of Art, a museum of modern art on the Mall which remained unbuilt and the nation’s first jet airport, Dulles International Airport which was completed one year after his death.
The much-publicized national competition of 1939 catapulted Saarinen into the architectural limelight at the age of 29, marking a triumph for the modernist camp. Opposition to the cutting edge modernist vocabulary was strong in the pre- World War II era and even though it would influence museums built throughout the world for decades to come, the Smithsonian Gallery of Art remained an unbuilt icon. Lost for 50 years, the discovery of the drawings twenty years ago and their secure place at the Smithsonian Institution confirms that architecture even when unbuilt can be influential, provocative and groundbreaking.
Shedding light on Saarinen’s secret professional life
Saarinen’s association with Washington continued throughout the war years when he volunteered for the OSS (Office of Strategic Services), the precursor to the CIA (Central Intelligence Agency). Recognized for “his outstanding capacity” for original design work in any field, Eero quickly excelled in his service to the OSS to became the chief of the Presentation Division responsible for all exhibits work.
The exhibition at A+D Architecture and Design Museum>Los Angeles is unique in shedding light on this little known chapter of Eero Saarinen’s secret professional life. While still in his 30’s Eero established himself as one of the most creative product designers with recognizable furniture broke technological and aesthetic boundaries with such icons as the tulip chair and the womb chair.