ST. LOUIS.- Eero Saarinen (1910-1961) was among the most prolific, unorthodox and controversial architects of the 20th century, creator of the monumental St. Louis Gateway Arch as well as sweepingly abstract terminals for New York's John F. Kennedy International and Washington's Dulles International airports. In January the Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum at Washington University in St. Louis will present Eero Saarinen: Shaping the Future, the first retrospective to explore the complete career of the acclaimed Finnish American architect.
In the 1940s and '50s Saarinen developed innovative construction techniques and deployed a highly personal, exuberant and often metaphorical aesthetic that defied Modernist orthodoxies and gave iconic form to the postwar American ideals of diversity, openness and unbounded freedom ideals that persist to this day. At the same time, though often celebrated as a lone, heroic creator, Saarinen worked frequently and enthusiastically with other architects, artists, engineers and clients to create cohesive, harmonious environments across a wide range of architectural scales.
Eero Saarinen: Shaping the Future comprehensively examines both aspects of Saarinen's oeuvre, investigating the aesthetic, cultural and political significance of his work within the larger context of postwar modern architecture, while also exploring the personal and working relationships between the architect and his many collaborators. Materials, drawn largely from the archives of Saarinen's office, include drawings and full-scale building mock-ups of more than 50 built and proposed projects from private residences, to religious and educational buildings, to large-scale urban planning projects such as airports and corporate headquarters as well as photographs, personal documents, press clippings, films and other ephemera.
The resulting portrait shows the architect to have been guided by a clear vision of modern life as a constant collaborative dialogue. Saarinen also emerges as a man in full command of the most sophisticated and media-savvy architectural and design strategies of his age.
In conjunction with Eero Saarinen: Shaping the Future, the Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts will host a second exhibition, titled The Gateway Arch and St. Louis. The show will highlight the history of the St. Louis waterfront as well as selected submissions to the 1947 competition, Saarinen's own entry, and his subsequent drawings and models. A daylong symposium of the same title will take place Jan. 31. In addition, the Kemper Art Museum will sponsor 1000 Arches, a community project that invites the public to create short films inspired by the Gateway Arch. Selected entries will be screened at the museum April 18.