Search results for "Eero Saarinen"

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Family Matters

PBS to air special on Eero Saarinen
As a belated gift to the architecture community, PBS will be airing a new documentary about Finnish-American modernist architect Eero Saarinen. American Masters — Eero Saarinen: The Architect Who Saw the Future will air Tuesday, December 27th on PBS and will be available on DVD January 3rd, 2017. Peter Rosen is the film’s director and producer, and Eric Saarinen, ASC, Eero Saarinen's son, is the film’s director of photography and co-producer. Eric Saarinen grew up surrounded by design and architecture at Cranbrook Academy, a campus designed by his grandfather Eliel Saarinen, who taught there alongside Eric's godparents, Charles and Ray Eames. Throughout the documentary Eric visits Eero's projects across the country, filming in 6k video and using drones to document his father’s work as never before. The show looks at the National Historic Landmarked North Christian Church and the Miller House in Columbus, Indiana, the Deere & Company World Headquarters in Moline, Illinois, and MIT’s Kresge Auditorium. The soon-to-be-renovated TWA terminal at JFK airport is also highlighted, along with his design for Dulles Airport. Along with archival interviews with Eero and his his second wife, The New York Times art critic Aline Saarinen, new interviews with architects and critics discuss his legacy. Architects Kevin Roche, César Pelli, Rafael Viñoly, Robert A. M. Stern, and industrial designer Niels Diffrient all speak about the influence Saarinen had on their own work, while architecture critic Paul Goldberger, curator Donald Albrecht, author Jayne Merkel, and Cathleen McGuigan, editor-in-chief of Architectural Record, discuss his lasting impact on the field as a whole. “Closure was something I didn’t have with my dad. But I forgive him for his genius,” said Eric Saarinen. “He figured out a way to be important across time, so even though he died young, he is still alive.” American Masters — Eero Saarinen: The Architect Who Saw the Future airs Tuesday, December 27 at 8 p.m. on PBS as the series’s Season 30 finale.
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Beyond Borders

Eero Saarinen’s TWA Flight Center will host 2016 Storefront for Art and Architecture auction
It is almost time for the annual Storefront for Art and Architecture spring benefit and auction. This year’s event is taking place at the Eero Saarinen*-designed Trans World (TWA) Flight Center, soon to close this year, and slated to reopen as a hotel in 2018. But first, to make sure you’re up to speed, a little bit about the Saarinen space at the JFK airport: a New York City landmark, the 1962 terminal head house has been closed since 2001, the same year American Airlines acquired Trans World Airlines (the original terminal airline). The Saarinen head house underwent a renovation, while portions of the surrounding terminal were demolished to make way for the Gensler-designed terminal that opened in 2008. The Storefront auction on May 8 will be the last public event in the terminal before redevelopment. The theme this year is BEYOND BORDERS, which the Storefront defines as: “In the space of the border, architecture intersects with dilemmas of flow, control, identity, and belonging. The scale of such dilemmas ranges from geopolitical to liminal. Borders, as lines of division between political, social, ecological, and moral issues, are subtle and ubiquitous protagonists in the poetics of daily life. They absorb the desires that exist on the margins of the legal and the possible”. In addition to the Denise Scott Brown photograph above, here is a sampling of the diverse pieces in the silent auction.       *For those on the west coast and want to check out an Eero Saarinen project, there is one in the Pacific Northwest. Saarinen designed an Oregon monastery library at Mount Angel Abbey in 1970. You can see a crossover between his light filled architecture and practical industrial design sensibilities carried through from the site placement down to the arrangement of study spaces.
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JetBlue wants to turn Eero Saarinen’s iconic TWA terminal into a hotel
JetBlue Airlines—the one with free snacks and live television—is interested in getting into the hotel business, and it wants to kick things off with Eero Saarinen's swooping TWA Terminal at JFK Airport. The Wall Street Journal reported that JetBlue and New York–based hotelier MCR Development are in "advanced negotiations" with the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey for the rights to turn the swooping structure into a modern hotel. While things seem promising, similar attempts have failed. In 2013, hotelier André Balazs won the rights for a terminal-to-hotel conversion, but ultimately decided not to move forward with the project because of how long it would take to complete—he's a busy guy and said he had more interesting things to pursue. After that episode, the bidding process was relaunched and JetBlue and MCR came out on top. If this new plan doesn't meet the same fate, the two companies plan to fill the terminal with 500 rooms, many of which will be occupied by frustrated fliers whose flights were cancelled and need a convenient place to stay before they catch the next flight at the crack of dawn. Honestly, having to spend a night in Saarinen's masterpiece wouldn't be the worst thing in the world.
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Eero Saarinen’s Gateway Arch in St. Louis Broke Ground 50 Years Ago Today
Fifty years ago, the St. Louis waterfront was one gigantic parking lot after 40 blocks of the city's gritty industrial quarter were cleared in the late 1930s to create a site for a new Jefferson National Expansion Memorial. It took another two decades to get anything built, but on February 12, 1963, the missing slice of St. Louis began to change as ground was broken for Eero Saarinen's famous Gateway Arch that still defines St. Louis in one dramatic gesture. The posthumous groundbreaking (Saarinen died in 1961) of the stainless-steel-clad catenary arch captured the nation's imagination, and in December 1963, Popular Mechanics noted, "The Arch is America's newest and highest national monument, and certainly its most unique." It went on to correctly predict that "The majestic monument in gleaming stainless steel will be such a dominant landmark that it inevitably will come to symbolize St. Louis." The article goes on to discuss the construction challenges that lay ahead as the two 630-foot-tall sides of the arch were built independently and had to line up at the top with a margin of error of only 1/64 of an inch. Today, leaders in St. Louis and at the National Park Service are hurring to complete the next chapter of the Gateway Arch's history: remaking the landscape around the monument to better connect and engage with the surrounding city. Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates's design won following a competition in 2010, and later this month, CityArchRiver, the organization overseeing the redevelopment, will hold a public meeting to report on the latest news and updates.
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Hotelier Andre Balazs to Update Saarinen’s TWA Terminal With New Standard Hotel
The TWA terminal at JFK airport in New York may soon change prevailing opinions that sleeping at the airport is strictly a last-resort decision. Reports have recently circulated that the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey has named André Balazs—the hotelier behind the Standard hotels in New York, Miami, and Los Angeles—to develop the iconic TWA terminal in Jamaica, Queens. According to an exclusive interview with the New York Post, the terminal will be transformed into a hotel and conference center with a spa and fitness center, retail space, eateries, and a flight museum. The facility will be called The Standard, Flight Center. Port Authority Executive Director Pat Foye told the Post in a statement, "The Port Authority is committed to preserving the essence of [Saarinen’s] iconic design and to continuing to work with [Balazs Properties] on a plan to transform the historic TWA Flight Center into a one-of-a-kind hotel and conference center in the heart of JFK’s central terminal area." Andre Balasz Properties could not be reached for comment. Eero Saarinen designed the terminal in 1956 that then opened in 1962, though flight operations were suspended in 2001. Four years later, JetBlue began construction of a new terminal that encircled the original building and has been open since 2008. Saarinen’s terminal has since remained vacant, with the exception of a handful of rare and exclusive events.
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Photo of the Day: Saarinen’s Swooping Dulles International Airport Turns 50
No one understood airports quite like Eero Saarinen. His swooping Dulles International Airport turned 50 over the weekend and its uplifting form is still inspiring today. Saarinen was quite proud of it, too, declaring the building "the best thing I have ever done." The control tower and main terminal building at Dulles opened on November 17, 1962, formally dedicated by President John F. Kennedy. The airport was named for Secretary of State John Foster Dulles. Also, if you're in Los Angeles, be sure to check out the A+D Architecture and Design Museum's exhibition on Saarinen, now up through January 3rd.
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Reevaluating Saarinen
Eero and Eliel Saarinen's unrealized Smithsonian Gallery of Art design.
Courtesy A+D Museum

Eero Saarinen: A Reputation for Innovation
A+D Architecture and Design Museum
6032 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles
Through January 3, 2013

The traveling exhibition Eero Saarinen: A Reputation for Innovation, at the A+D Architecture and Design Museum through January 3, provides a persuasive case for reevaluating the work of this Finnish American master. Key Saarinen projects are displayed on hanging panels that combine drawings, photographs, and succinct texts. It’s a relief to encounter such an enlightening, unpretentious show. The exhibition could have used more models to go with the videos and sampling of the furniture Saarinen created for Knoll, including the Grasshopper and Womb chairs, and the Tulip chairs and tables that banished what he called “the slum of legs.”

Saarinen was an inventive genius, but World War II delayed his career as an architect and then he died relatively young at age 51, in 1961. During his decade of running an independent practice following his father’s death in 1950, Saarinen was incredibly productive, creating landmarks in several categories, including memorials, airports, embassies, colleges, sports halls, and corporate buildings. Plus he designed furniture. Business and government took full advantage of his talent, but his critics were often dismissive. He was a round peg in an era of square holes, veering from sharp angularity to sensuous curves, and shifting style with every job.

Dulles Airport, Washington, D.C.

Today, that originality would be applauded, but modernist orthodoxy prevailed through the 1950s, and Saarinen was deemed frivolous, even irrelevant. Critics pounced on his few missteps (the ponderous U.S. Embassy in London, the clumsy medievalism of Morse and Ezra Stiles Colleges at Yale University). His finest achievements—the Gateway Arch in St. Louis, the TWA Terminal at New York’s John F. Kennedy Airport, and Washington Dulles Airport’s main terminal in Virginia—were all completed after his death.

A revelation of the A+D show is the 1939 competition-winning design for the Smithsonian Gallery of Art, intended to complement, in its architecture and contemporary focus, John Russell Pope’s National Gallery of Art, then under construction on the north side of the Washington Mall. The 29-year-old architect, who had collaborated with his father, Eliel, on a series of smaller and unrealized projects, served as a lead designer for the first time.

But like his father’s second-place entry in the Chicago Tribune Tower competition, this work proved too radical for the client’s taste. For the hallowed ground of the nation’s capital, only a certain form of classicism seemed to be politically acceptable (a preference still evident in more recent controversies over the World War II Memorial and Frank Gehry’s design for an Eisenhower memorial).

Saarinen's Tulip Chair.

Saarinen’s greatest work may be inside Dulles, an international travel hub, but it lies 30 miles outside the capital.

Saarinen grew up at Cranbrook Academy, which his father built and directed. There he forged a lasting friendship with Charles Eames, collaborating with him on many projects, including the 1940 Museum of Modern Art’s Organic Home Furnishings competition.

During World War II, the younger Saarinen won acclaim for his design work with the Office of Strategic Services.  He later worked with Charles Eames and his wife Ray on Case Study House #9, whose first occupant was sponsor John Entenza. They also made a short film explaining the mobile lounges of Dulles Airport, helping to win approval for this novel system.

The exhibit leaves one to wonder what Saarinen—like Louis Kahn or any great architect who dies at the height of his creative powers—might have achieved had he lived a few decades more.

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A+D Showcases the Secret Life of Saarinen in New Exhibition
LA's A+D Architecture and Design Museum is presenting Eero Saarinen: A Reputation For Innovation, which opens tomorrow night. The show will highlight one of the world's most heralded mid-century architects, who designed, among other things, the St. Louis Gateway Arch, the TWA Terminal at JFK in New York, Dulles Airport in Washington D.C., and the Entenza House in Los Angeles. Saarinen was also a renowned product designer, and, unbeknownst to most, an employee for the OSS (the precursor to the CIA), where he learned many of his design techniques. The show will explore this under-documented phase of his career and bring to light a designer whose influence still resonates today. For instance, did you know that Cesar Pelli, Kevin Roche, and Robert Venturi were among the many who worked for Saarinen? Get tickets to the opening here.
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Digitizing Saarinen’s Miller House
Even if Columbus, Indiana is not on your travel itinerary Eero Saarinen’s Miller House and Garden may come to you via the internet. Last week, the Indianapolis Museum of Art (IMA) announced a $190,000 grant from the National Endowment for Humanities (NEH) to digitize its Miller House and Garden Collection. The house—a celebrated collaboration between architect Saarinen, interior designer Alexander Girard, and landscape architect Dan Kiley—opened for tours last year , and the museum reports more than 6,500 tour tickets were sold. With the increased interest comes a growing number of requests from researchers asking for access to the home’s archives. While in good condition, the museum writes in their NEH proposal that “repeated handling would quickly degrade these important and unique materials."  With the digitization, visitors would not only be able to view the home itself, but explore over 50 years of administrative documents covering the home's design and construction. These include: house inventories, construction plans, and correspondence between client and designers. The museum estimates that it would take about two years to finish the project. Once done, the archive will be available on the web through Archon, an open source archives management tool. IMA, however, still needs to collect an additional $73,000, to complete its initial project estimate of $263,000."If no further funds are available, the museum will make decisions about the priority and importance of the material and edit the project accordingly,” said Bradley C. Brooks, IMA’s Director of Historic Resources.“Very few archival collections of Modernist architecture are available online, and digitizing the Miller House and Garden Collection will provide a new precedent for engaging researchers from multiple disciplines in the study of materials of this kind,” Brooks added. IMA has whetted our appetites with the below photo of J. Irwin Miller’s correspondence with Saarinen, which kickstarted the landmark project. Miller writes to Saarinen, “I think we will have a good deal of fun working this out.” Fifty years later, we’re all still enthralled by the results.
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Saarinen Spared in NJ
Ezra Stoller/ESTO

In 2006, the Eero Saarinen-designed Bell Telephone Laboratories was in imminent danger of demolition by would-be developer, Preferred Real Estate Investments of Conshohocken, Pennsylvania, who planned to replace it with smaller office buildings and housing units on the site’s pastoral 472 acres. Now, two years later, Somerset Development, a Lakewood, New Jersey, firm, has signed a contract with Alcatel-Lucent, the property owner. If redevelopment proceeds as planned, the 1.9-million-square-foot, six-story building, named to Preservation New Jersey’s “10 Most Endangered Historic Sites” list in 2007, and recently declared eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places, will be spared the wrecking ball.

In a statement made via email, Somerset president Ralph Zucker wrote that the firm does “not plan on demolishing any of the existing structures,” and is “approaching this with a preservationist attitude.” Somerset is still in the early planning stages, but feels the building lends itself to a mix of uses. Zucker, a proponent of New Urbanism, wrote that his vision is “a downtown-style, mixed-use environment created at [the] building.”

A three-day charrette, sponsored by the American Institute of Architects’ New Jersey chapter, Preservation NJ, the Docomomo-NY Tristate chapter, and the National Trust for Historic Preservation, held in April, addressed problems surrounding the sustainable reuse and retention of the building, which was completed in 1962 and expanded in1985. Participants found the “building to be quite flexible,” said Michael Calafati, chair of the AIA-NJ chapter and a lead organizer of the event.

When asked about Somerset’s proposed redevelopment plan, Calafati cautioned that the devil is in the details. He questions whether Somerset’s plans to add buildings to the site will “maintain the monumentality of the Saarinen building,” an element charrette participants identified as central to the character of the building, along with its fully mirrored facade, its atria and corridors, and its relationship to the surrounding landscape, designed by Hideo Sasaki.

Preservationists and Saarinen enthusiasts hope Bell Labs’ mirrored facade will be maintained. 

In its final report to the Holmdel Township Committee submitted on July 24, the Citizens Advisory Committee, a non-partisan group charged by the township to evaluate and make recommendations about the redevelopment of the property, cited several factors that could impact Somerset’s plans, the most important of which is the New Jersey Council of Affordable Housing’s (COAH) affordable housing requirement. “The COAH situation is very complex,” said Ralph Blumenthal, co-chair of the advisory committee. The third round COAH regulations were recently revised and are currently being challenged.

According to Blumenthal, before the rules were changed, if developers reused an existing building, the township bore no new obligation for additional affordable housing. If this changes, the “township’s affordable housing obligation due to the redevelopment” could increase “by hundreds of units,” which would change the finances of the Bell Labs project, and in all likelihood, influence its final form.

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Saarinen Up for Sale
Scott Frances/Esto

Eero Saarinen’s 1960 American embassy in London in posh Grosvenor Square is up for sale. An important, if not entirely successful example of Saarinen’s work, it has been deemed too vulnerable for government occupation. The Chancellery, as it is officially called because it houses only offices (the ambassadorial residence is elsewhere), is one of only three buildings that the Finnish-born American architect built in Europe, all of which are currently endangered.

Since April, according to The Sun, realtors from the Knight Frank agency have been showing potential buyers what was once considered, according to Architectural Record at the time, “the most important project’‘ in the State Department’s ambitious, postwar foreign building program. The asking price for the 133,300-square-foot Portland stone building is reported to be £90 million (approximately $180 million). On July 2, the London-based Twentieth Century Society, a modern preservation group, decided to go ahead with a proposal to designate the U.S. Chancellery a landmark.

Like Saarinen’s Oslo Embassy (1955–59) and dozens of other U.S. State Department buildings around the world, the London Chancellery is now considered difficult to defend from terrorist attacks. Only a few years ago—after 9/11—State Department officials thought it was safe enough because it has a sloping base that separates it from the street, and because the north end of Grosvenor Square where it sits could be sealed off by bollards. (In Oslo, the U.S. State Department had already voiced similar concerns and had discussed moving out of its Saarinen-designed embassy building that is not protected by local landmark laws. The architect’s only other European building, the Athens Airport, has been out of service since 2001.)

To what extent growing resentment of the American presence abroad is responsible for the change of heart in London—or if exponentially rising real estate values play a role—is anybody’s guess at this point. In 1955, when the State Department held an invited competition for the opportunity to design the London Embassy, it was a plum commission both because of the building’s prominent location but also due to the importance of American-British relations in the postwar period. Among the other contenders were Sert, Jackson and Zalewski; Edward Durell Stone; Wurster Bernardi & Emmons; Yamasaki Leinweber, and Hugh Stubbins. The brief called for a design “which would engender good will through distinguished architectural quality.” It explicitly ruled out stylistic copies, and said the building should “represent the United States at this time,” and asked for “the establishment of an appropriate visual relationship to the other three sides of Grosvenor Square” in scale and materials.

That was no small order, as Saarinen later explained, because he was designing a building to conform to an as-yet unbuilt masterplan for the square that called for a uniform cornice line, red brick walls, and Portland cement columns in a pseudo-Georgian style that would replace the extant, historic row houses in a variety of styles and motifs. There were other complications. The program was changed and enlarged after Saarinen won the competition. Gold-anodized aluminum trim was substituted for the bronze that Saarinen had specified, and the Portland stone that was supposed to darken was cleaned so that it looked like concrete.

The U.S. Embassy in London is not the most beloved or daring of Saarinen’s buildings, but it was far and away the most successful entry into the competition and it is the most prominent example of his work in Europe. More important, it speaks of a time when the United States was committed to building architecture abroad that was dignified, humane, and respectful.