Encyclopedia Of Detroit

Saarinen, Eliel

Born on August 20, 1873, Eliel Saarinen was a Finnish architect who became famous for his art nouveau buildings in the early years of the 20th century. Saarinen was educated at the Helsinki University of Technology. From 1896 to 1905 he worked as a partner at the firm Gesellius, Lindgren, and Saarinen. His first major work with the firm, the Finnish pavilion at the World Fair of 1900, exhibited an extraordinary convergence of stylistic influences: Finnish wooden architecture, the British Gothic Revival, and the Jugendstil. Saarinen's early manner was later christened the Finnish National Romanticism and culminated in the Helsinki Central railway station (designed 1904, constructed 1910-14).

On March 6, 1904, Saarinen married Louise Gesellius. They had two children; a daughter, Eva-Lisa, and a son, Eero. Eero (1910–1961), became one of the most important American architects of the mid-20th century, as one of the leaders of the International style.

In January 1911, Eliel became a consultant in city planning for Reval, Estonia and was invited to Budapest to advise in city development. In April 1913 he received the first place award in an international competition for his plan of Reval. During 1917-18 Saarinen worked on the city-plan for greater Helsinki. He also designed the Finnish markka banknotes introduced in 1922.

Saarinen and his family moved to the United States in 1923 after his noted competition entry for the Tribune Tower in Chicago, Illinois. They moved to Michigan in 1924, when Eliel became a visiting professor at the University of Michigan. In 1925, George Booth asked him to design the campus of Cranbrook Educational Community. Saarinen taught there and became president of the Cranbrook Academy of Art in 1932. He died on July 1, 1950, in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan.



Photo of Cranbrook School dining hall, 1960 - 2012.022.271

Photo showing the Peristyle of the Cranbrook Art Museum in the background, 1980 - 2012.022.281

View all items related to Eliel Saarinen