Dictionary of Art and Artists



History of

Architecture and Sculpture



















Part I. ARCHITECTURE - 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10,
Part II. ARCHITECTURE - 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20,
Part III. ARCHITECTURE - 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29



Harley Earl's 1959 Cadillac, the queen of all tail-fin street cruisers, marks the notable high point of an era of opulent, neo-baroque fiction. The glittering, gross trim of the technical appliance had outlived itself; reality caught up with the designer dream. The gruffly charming Lockheed "Constellation" propeller plane, with its three round horizontal tail units, was now succeeded by the sleek, jet-propelled Boeing 707 as the embodiment of modern mobility. The new ideal form was streamlined and functional.

In architecture, dynamic, upswinging roofs in every imaginable curving form expressed culturally optimistic statements in coolly objective shapes. The necessary technology had already been developed by Dischinger, Finsterwalder and Bauersfeld in the thirties, although initially employed almost exclusively for single-arched shells, and in particular barrel vaulting. Statics were further improved by more complex forms, such as the double-arched saddle. There is an undoubted expressiveness about such structures, and it is surely no coincidence that the achievements of civil engineering in this field were taken up in the fifties. In his General Motors Technical Center, Eero Saarinen had already placed the auditorium of the Design Department under a flat, silver calotte shell. He continued this line in his design for the Massachusetts Institute of Technology auditorium with a cupola roof resting on only three points. The results were not, however, entirely satisfying. It lacked an obvious front, and above all it lacked dynamism. Therefore a completely different approach was adopted for the Yale University Ice Hockey Stadium, which he built just a short time later. From a standing central arch spanning the entire length of the building, the roof panes swing out to lateral concrete frames of identical radii. Saarinen thought this hanging roof still looked too apathetic from the outside,- it reminded him of a turtle. He therefore extended the ends of the arch beyond their bases and curved them skywards. The long, craning tip above the entrance ends in a lamp sculpture by Oliver Andrews, whereby this visual manipulation re-acquired functional justification. The comment of one hockey player - that the stadium vault shouted "Go, go, go" at him as he chased the puck - confirmed precisely the impression of dynamism intended by this architecture. Unlike the M. I. T., however, this sculptural building is not prominently placed on an empty plot of and, but stands in a crowded urban environment to which its form bears no real relation.

Function and experimental form also found outstanding fusion in a new terminal for Trans World Airlines in New York. On the one hand, the very concept of a passenger terminal for air travellers invited a futuristic approach; on the other hand, competition between private airlines made a striking architectural statement particularly desirable. Above a curving low building facing the approach ramp rises the daring roof of the passenger area. It is in principle composed of four arched shells of spectacular cut. They each stand on two feet, their tips meeting above the centre of the hall. Narrow overhead windows along this interface emphasize the autonomy of the different segments. The thickened shell rims, echoing the lines of force in reinforced concrete, add to the organic character of the building. An overall image of a bird with spreading wings is confirmed in the beak-like projection of the roof. The interior is characterized by powerful curves which carry the dramatic style of the roof into even the smallest details.

A not insignificant problem accompanying large ferroconcrete shells, are the large wooden frames required for their casting, which can account for more than half of total construction costs. It was for this reason that Pier Luigi Nervi worked largely with prefabricated parts in the Palazzetto dello Sport, his "small" stadium for the Olympics in Rome. Its shallow calotte shell is composed of 1620 polygonal prefabricated parts which form a textured diamond pattern on the inside, created by the webs in which the connecting steel reinforcements were laid. Their progression was organic in effect, but did not describe the actual lines of force. The development of the rim zones was thereby of particular note. Since unequal load could cause substantial static problems in these areas, Nervi found a new solution: triangular concrete elements transfer the load to sloping piers, angled in the exact direction of vault pressure. The concrete surface of the roof is continued between these piers and ends in an undulating border. The roof skin is thus drawn optically lower than the load-bearing shell actually extends.

Dulles International Airport in Washington D.C. was also built with prefabricated parts. Saarinen here designed a huge hanging roof, held by arms which raise its broad surface to the sky like the flag bearers at the Olympic Parade of Nations. Concrete slabs were hung between the supporting steel cables and, as in Nervi's stadium, covered above with a reinforced closed concrete ceiling.

Saarinen's hanging roof in Washington and Nervi's cupola in Rome both represent very simple geometric forms. More complicated, however, are the so-called" ruled surfaces" created via the movement of a generating straight line along two directrices. At any rate the volumetric figures which result can be manufactured in a mould with straight boards. In the case of the hyperbolic paraboloid there are even two systems of generating straight lines,- the boards can thus also be joined straight, making the wooden framework simpler and cheaper to build. Such surfaces can be built both as normal shell roofs and as hanging roofs. Their transformation into an architecture which is economical as well as constructionally illuminating is not without its difficulties, however, as the story of the Benjamin Franklin Hall in Berlin reveals. Presented to the city as a gift by the USA on the occasion of the 1957 Interbau Exhibition, it was to offer a visual illustration of its function as a congress hall, a forum for free speech. Architect Hugh Stubbins planned a hanging roof which was held by two arched supports on each side and which, spectacularly, rested on only two points. It only actually roofed the central auditorium,- the large complex was otherwise covered with a flat, quadratic cement slab. Since a roof which rests on only two points is statically almost impossible, a solution was adopted which provoked much criticism at the time: the walls of the auditorium assumed the load of the roof section suspended between them, while the clearly-visible wings only supported the oversailing "hat brim", creating a contradiction between the seeming and the actual load distribution.

In 1980 the front wing collapsed, following the corrosion of its steel members. In its reconstruction over the next few years it proved possible to execute the original plan, and to indeed base a wide-span roof on only two points. The roof is now raised fully clear of the separate auditorium roof below. Its dimensions are slightly modified as a result of its new structural calculation bases. From an aesthetic point of view, however, the building can still be criticized. In the mad ride of its architecture, the communicative element is left far behind. The interior is both unclear and awkward; the foyer is disfigured by the strange pot-belly of the auditorium above. The - in places very low - ceilings produce a cramped atmosphere, and the lecture hall itself is too much oriented towards purely one-sided communication. Possibilities for meaningful long-term usage are limited by the lack of flexibility of the rooms. This huge architectural gesture today represents little more than a memorial to a past epoch, and the hall was perhaps rebuilt for that very reason.




There is, however, an alternate tradition of reinforced concrete dating back to Berg's Century Flail (see fig.
1177). This Expressionist vision continued to provide a dialogue with the International Style that enriched modern architecture. The Trans World Airlines Terminal at Kennedy Airport in New York (figs. 1202 and 1203) by Eero Saarinen (1910-1961) is the great statement of postwar Expressionism. Saarinen, whose father had been a well-known architect in his own right, was a skilled practitioner of the International Style. Here he has used the full potential of concrete in order to express the very essence of flight. Yet the inspiration, rather than mechanical, was purely organic. The swelling, saillike forms of the lour "flying" roofs create the impression of a gigantic bird, while the free-flowing spaces conduct the visitor through the graceful interior with astonishing force, as if pulled along by a vortex.

1202. EERO SAARINEN. Trans World Airlines Terminal,
John F. Kennedy Airport, New York,

Trans World Airlines Terminal, John F. Kennedy Airport

1203. Terminal hall, Trans World Airlines Terminal, John F. Kennedy Airport



Eero Saarinen

Eero Saarinen, (born Aug. 20, 1910, Kirkkonummi, Fin.—died Sept. 1, 1961, Ann Arbor, Mich., U.S.), Finnish-born American architect who was one of the leaders in a trend toward exploration and experiment in American architectural design during the 1950s.

Life Eero was the son of the noted architect Eliel Saarinen and Loja Gesellius, a sculptor. The Saarinen family of four, including a sister, Eva-Lisa, moved to the United States in 1923. Eero attended public schools in Michigan. In 1929 he studied sculpture at the Académie de la Grande Chaumière in Paris but, as he recounted years later, “it never occurred to me to do anything but follow in my father’s footsteps.” Between 1931 and 1934 he studied architecture at Yale University, where the curriculum was untouched by modern theories. His father’s architecture in Finland had focussed on a free adaptation of medieval Scandinavian forms, and in the United States he designed various private school buildings from 1925 to 1941, including Cranbrook Academy of Art in Bloomfield Hills, Mich., following this loose, romantic style. At Yale, young Saarinen won a travelling fellowship that made possible a leisurely European visit in 1934–35. He stayed an additional year in Helsinki working with the architect Jarl Eklund.

Eero Saarinen’s professional work in the United States began in 1936 with research on housing and city planning with the Flint Institute of Research and Planning in Flint, Mich. He joined his father’s practice in Bloomfield Hills in 1938, and one year later their collaborative design—tranquil yet monumental—for the mall in Washington, D.C., won first prize in the Smithsonian Institution Gallery of Art competition. Unfortunately the design was never executed.

In 1939 Saarinen married Lillian Swann, a sculptor, and they had two children, Eric and Susan. This marriage ended in divorce in 1953, and Saarinen was remarried the following year to Aline Bernstein Loucheim, an art critic. A son, Eames, was born later that year.

In 1940 Eero and his father designed Crow Island School in Winnetka, Ill., which influenced postwar school design, being a one-story structure, generously extended in plan, and suitably scaled for primary-grade children. Also in 1940 he became a naturalized citizen of the United States. In 1945 Eero joined a partnership with Eliel Saarinen and J. Robert F. Swanson that had been organized in 1939. This partnership was dissolved in 1947 and a new partnership of Saarinen, Saarinen and Associates was then formed that lasted until the elder Saarinen’s death.

In the 11 years that he survived his father, Saarinen’s own work included a series of dramatically different designs that displayed a richer and more diverse vocabulary. In questioning the presuppositions of early modern architecture, he introduced sculptural forms that were rich in architectural character and visual drama unknown in earlier years. The exciting results were welcomed by many who were bored by the uniformity and austerity of the International Style of modern architecture.

Saarinen’s first independent work, one that brought immediate renown, was the vast General Motors Technical Center in Warren, Mich. Here Saarinen arranged five major building complexes, each for a different research study, around a 22-acre (9-hectare) reflecting pool. Strips of planted forest rimmed the 320-acre (130-hectare) site. The precision and modular rhythm of the low buildings recalls the design of the German-American architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, as well as the early automobile factories of the U.S. architect Albert Kahn. Saarinen’s technical solution of the curtain wall (metal panels and glass set in aluminum frames) was widely copied. The scale and visual splendour of the centre suggests a 20th-century Versailles.

In 1953 Saarinen began to design the Kresge Auditorium and chapel of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, choosing the basic forms of an eighth of a sphere for the auditorium and a cylinder for the chapel. The partial sphere is a “handkerchief ” dome resting on three points. The auditorium is arranged entirely within this dramatically simple form. The small chapel is a stark, red-brick cylinder, lighted only from above. Both were completed in 1955. While some critics felt that the solutions were forced and arbitrary, these buildings indicated the search Saarinen had begun for significant and identifying character in public buildings.

Although Saarinen continued to use rectilinear forms on occasion, such as the United States Embassy in London (1955–60) and the Law School at the University of Chicago (1956–60), it was his freely sculptural designs that achieved greater attention. In 1956 two such works were initiated that can be considered representative: Ingalls Hockey Rink at Yale University in New Haven, Conn. (1958), and the Trans World Airlines (TWA) terminal at John F. Kennedy International Airport, New York City (1956–62). For the Yale rink, Saarinen, avoiding the typical field house, achieved a unique and sympathetic sports building. From a lengthwise curved spine in reinforced concrete, he suspended cables to anchors on the oval periphery. This tentlike form suggests an almost Oriental shrine for the game of hockey, a blending of the structural, emotional, and aesthetic that Saarinen himself was proud of. For the design of the TWA terminal, Saarinen continued exploration of interior–exterior sculptural effects. Based on a symmetrical plan, two major cantilevered concrete shells extend dramatically outward, suggesting wings, and on the inside sculptural supports and curving stairways evoke a feeling of movement. In this distinctive and memorable building, Saarinen presented a symbol of flight. While to some it proclaimed virtuosity over logic, Saarinen believed “we must have an emotional reason as well as a logical end for everything we do.” Later, Saarinen designed the Dulles International Airport at Chantilly, Va., outside Washington, D.C. (1958–62), with a hanging roof suspended from diagonal supports.

Saarinen’s effort was primarily concerned with institutional buildings for education and industry. He built only one skyscraper, the CBS Headquarters in New York City (1960–64), and one house, in the Midwest. His 1948 prizewinning Jefferson National Expansion Memorial design for St. Louis, Mo., was completed in 1965. It is a graceful and spectacular arch of stainless steel, with a span and height of 630 feet (190 metres). It conveys a sense of ceremony and special place yet also one of delight and ease, qualities that are present in all Saarinen’s works, whatever their function.

Furniture design Like many contemporary architects, Saarinen was challenged by furniture design, especially the chair, which presents aesthetical and structural problems that are particularly difficult to solve. In 1941 he and the designer-architect Charles Eames won a national furniture award for a chair design in molded plywood. In 1948 Saarinen created a womblike chair using a glass fibre shell upholstered in foam rubber and fabric.

His last furniture designs comprised a series of pedestal-based chairs and tables (1957) that combined a sculptural aluminum base with plastic shells for the chairs and discs of marble or plastic for the table tops. The curvilinear forms of his furniture designs paralleled his growing interest in sculptural architectural forms.

Assessment As a person, Saarinen was outwardly a stocky, calm man of informal manner and puckish humour, but underneath he was intensely serious about architecture and seemed compulsively competitive with his own most recent designs. His wish that a building make an expressive statement established new horizons for modern architecture. He was exploratory in his thinking and committed to research on every level. His buildings were created with meticulous care, from the original analysis of a client’s problem to the final execution, and were sympathetically received by both the general public and his fellow architects.

Saarinen died in 1961, leaving numerous projects to be completed by his associates. Always immersed in architecture, he had no other real interest. He never wrote a book and commented only occasionally on his buildings and architectural philosophy. He largely initiated a trend, however, toward exploration and experiment in design—a trend that departed from the doctrinaire rectangular prisms that were characteristic of the earlier phase of modern architecture.

H.F. Koeper

Encyclopædia Britannica


Eero Saarinen, Charles and Ray Eames. Case Study House No. 8 for Ray and Charles Eames,
Pacific Palisades, California, 1945-1949

Axonometric projection of the structural steel construction

Eero Saarinen, Charles and Ray Eames. Case Study House No. 8.
Living area

Eero Saarinen and Charles Eames. Case Study House No. 9, Entenza House,
Pacific Palisades, California, 1945-1949


Eero Saarinen and Charles Eames. Case Study House No. 9.
Entrance area

Eero Saarinen and Charles Eames. Case Study House No. 9.
Living room

Eero Saarinen. General Motors Technical Center in Warren, Michigan, 1949-1956

Eero Saarinen. General Motors Technical Center in Warren, Michigan, 1949-1956

Eero Saarinen. General Motors Technical Center in Warren.
Stairs in the Research departament

General plan of the complex

Eero Saarinen (arch.), Ammon and Whitney (eng.)
Dulles International Airoport of Washington D.C. in Chantilly, 1958-1962

Eero Saarinen (arch.), Fred Severud (eng.)
David S. Ingalls Hockey Rink, Yale Univerersity,
New Haven, Connecticut, 1953-1959

Eero Saarinen (arch.), Fred Severud (eng.)
David S. Ingalls Hockey Rink, Yale Univerersity,
New Haven, Connecticut, 1953-1959

Longitudinal section of the stadium


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