MINNEAPOLIS, MN.- On a four-year international tour of Europe and the United States, the landmark exhibition Eero Saarinen: Shaping the Futurethe first major museum retrospective of this Finnish-born American architects short but prolific careerwill be jointly presented at the Walker Art Center and the Minneapolis Institute of Arts September 13January 4. An opening-weekend lecture on Sunday, September 14, at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, with Susan Saarinen, the architects daughter, and a weekend symposium October 1012, concluding at the Saarinen & Saarinen-designed Christ Church Lutheran in Minneapolis, one of the finest examples of modern ecclesiastical architecture, are among the related programs celebrating the exhibition.
Organized by the Finnish Cultural Institute in New York, the Museum of Finnish Architecture, Helsinki, and the National Building Museum, Washington, D.C., with the support of the Yale University School of Architecture, Eero Saarinen: Shaping the Future features never-before-seen sketches, working drawings, models, photographs, furnishings, films, and other ephemera from various archives and private collections. Exploring more than 50 of Saarinens built and unbuilt projects, the exhibition provides a unique opportunity to consider his innovations in the use of new materials and construction techniques within the larger context of postwar modern architecture.
In this collaborative presentation, the Walker Art Center will feature Saarinens furnishings and residences as well as his designs for churches and academic and corporate campuses, while the Minneapolis Institute of Arts will present his designs for airports, memorials, and embassies as well as his early work within the context of its modernist design collection.
From the sweeping curves of the TWA terminal JFK Airport and the soaring Gateway Arch in St. Louis to the elegant simplicity of the Pedestal Chair, Eero Saarinen created some of the most powerful and enduring expressions of modern architecture and design. Although his career was cut short by his early death at age 51 in 1961, Saarinen was one of the most celebrated architects of his time, both at home and abroad. Born in Finland in 1910, he coincidentally shared the same birth date as his famous father, architect Eliel Saarinen, who designed the buildings and grounds of the famed Cranbrook educational campus in the Detroit suburb of Bloomfield Hills, Michigan. Emigrating to the United States at the age of 13, Eero grew up at Cranbrook, immersed in its artistic culture, and completed his architectural studies at Yale University before eventually returning to Cranbrook to teach and practice architecture in partnership with his father on many important commissions. With the death of Eliel in 1950, Christ Church Lutheran (19471949) in Minneapolis Longfellow neighborhood would be the last completed project by Saarinen and Saarinen.
Saarinen established his own firm and enjoyed a fame that surpassed that of his fathers, attracting and nurturing top talent from around the world, many of whom went on to have significant practices of their own. He achieved international acclaim while working out of a surprisingly modest office in Bloomfield Hills. An intense and immersive environment, the office operated nearly around the clock. Saarinens practice spanned airports, embassies, national memorials, corporate and academic campuses, churches, private residences, and furniture. Some of his peers criticized him for having a different style for each job, but he shrugged off the criticism, rejecting the dogma of an orthodox modernism by letting the subject and site guide his solutions.
Saarinen helped create important expressions of American identity such as the United Sates Jefferson National Expansion Memorial, better known as St. Louis Gateway Arch, which celebrated the countrys westward expansion with a simple form of monumental proportions; airports in both New York and Washington, D.C., that thrilled people with the glamour of international travel and served as an entry to the countrys business and political capitals; and his pioneering development of the postwar corporate campus for such industrial giants as General Motors, Bell Telephone, and IBM, including its manufacturing and training center in Rochester, Minnesota (19561958). These buildings used dynamic forms and structural innovations to capture the optimism of mid-20th-century America, while their variety came to represent a national ideal of unbounded choice.
Documentary Film - Screened at both venues, Eero Saarinen: Shaping the Future, an 18-minute documentary film by KDN Films produced by Bill Ferehawk, Bill Kubota, and Ed Moore, chronicles the life and work of the architect, focusing not only on his buildings in their cultural context but also the collaborative, 24-hour-a-day process that produced them. Interviews with more than a dozen people tell the Saarinen story in a search to understand his genius and his little-understood, yet influential, design process. Included are personal anecdotes and commentary by key figures in Saarinens life: intimate family friend Florence Knoll Bassett; critic Vincent Scully; and architects such as Kevin Roche, César Pelli, and Ralph Rapson.
Publication - Eero Saarinen: Shaping the Future is accompanied by an illustrated catalogue that addresses the themes and framework of the exhibition, with sections devoted to building types and the architects milieu. An opening essay written by co-editors Eeva-Liisa Pelkonen and Donald Albrecht introduces the themes of the book, which is composed of two main sections, an annotated chronology, selected Saarinen writings, and appreciations by former collaborators. Included are essays by a team of researchers and scholars that situate Saarinen and his work in his social, intellectual, and artistic milieu, as well as the most complete portfolio of Saarinen projects to date presenting a chronological survey of more than 100 projects. The catalogue, published by Yale University Press, is available at the Walker Art Center Shop and the Museum Shop at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts. $65.
Eero Saarinen: Shaping the Future is organized by the Finnish Cultural Institute in New York, the Museum of Finnish Architecture, Helsinki, and the National Building Museum in Washington, D.C., with the support of the Yale University School of Architecture. The exhibition is curated by Donald Albrecht, independent curator and Curator of Architecture and Design at the Museum of the City of New York.