Encyclopedia Of Detroit

Saarinen, Eero

Born in Finland on August 20, 1910, Eero Saarinen was a famous architect and industrial designer of the 20th century. Saarinen, who was the son of famed architect Eliel Saarinen,  moved to America with his family in 1923. He grew up in Bloomfield Hills where his father was a teacher at the Cranbrook Academy of Art.

Beginning in September 1929, Eero studied sculpture at the Académie de la Grande Chaumière in Paris, France. He then attended the Yale School of Architecture, completing his studies in 1934. After finishing school, he toured Europe and North Africa for a year and spent a year in Finland, after which he returned to Cranbrook to work for his father and teach at the academy.

Saarinen first received critical recognition in 1940 for a chair he and Charles Eames designed together.  They received the first prize at the "Organic Design in Home Furnishings". The "Tulip Chair," as it became known, was the basis of the seating used on the original Star Trek television series. Saarinen also took first prize in the 1948 competition for the design of the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial in St. Louis, which was not completed until the 1960s. The first major work by Saarinen, in collaboration with his father, was the General Motors Technical Center in Warren, Michigan, constructed in 1956.

Saarinen ran his own architectural firm, Eero Saarinen and Associates, where he was the principal partner from 1950 until his death in 1961. The firm was located in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, until 1961 when the practice moved to Hamden, Connecticut. Under Saarinen, the firm carried out many of its most important works, including the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial (Gateway Arch) in St. Louis, Missouri, the TWA Flight Center at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York, and the main terminal of Dulles International Airport near Washington, D.C.

Saarinen died on September 1, 1961, while undergoing an operation for a brain tumor. He had two children from his first marriage, Eric and Susan. Following his divorce from the sculptor Lilian Swann Saarinen in 1954, Saarinen married Aline Bernstein Louchheim, an art critic at The New York Times. They had a son, Eames, named after his friend and collaborator Charles Eames



Aerial view of the General Motors Technical Center, 1973 - 2012.022.216

Photo from the grounds of the General Motors Technical Center, 1966 - 2012.022.219

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