#12 A tale of two Saarinen designs
This year, I had the opportunity to visit two Eero Saarinen designs, both architecturally important yet vastly different in form and function. In my Miller House post, I highlight a little why Eero Saarinen’s work is so important to me personally. In March, I visited the Gateway Arch at the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial (St. Louis, MO), a monument designed as part of an architectural competition to celebrate the western expansion of the United States. This stood in significant contrast to my visit to the Miller House (Columbus, IN) eight months later, a private property designed as a residence for one family. Both properties — individually and together — helped me understand the significance and long lasting legacy of Eero Saarinen’s work.
The Arch. It’s such a stunning piece of sculptural architecture. The size. The materials. The curves and shape. Walking around the monument grounds I was struck by how the curves changed at every angle. Although I did chicken out to go up to the top, I will still remember the way the stainless steel bounced the sunlight in different ways. I felt like a kid again – staring up at the large monument in awe of its engineering achievement. While Saarinen’s design for the Arch won the architectural competition in 1947, due to a variety of issues, construction did not start until 1963 and was completed in 1965. Like many of Saarinen’s designs, he was not alive to see it completed.
Miller House. In many ways, the Miller House and the Gateway Arch are dramatically different. But, in other ways, they are very much the same. Both feature a design that so perfectly captures the site and client’s wishes. The design of the Miller House technically dates after the Arch – commissioned in 1953 and completed in 1957. I take some pleasure in knowing that Eero was alive to see this masterpiece finished, unlike the Arch, North Christian Church, TWA Terminal, and so many other of his landmark works. The integration of the landscape (Dan Kiley) and interior design (Alexander Girard) seamlessly give the impression the entire home was executed by one mind.
I’ve had the pleasure to visit several of Eero Saarinen’s designs, including North Christian Church, the exterior of TWA Terminal, and Dulles International Airport. However, I’ve still to visit many of his other works, including Ingalls Rink at Yale and the Kresge Auditorium and Chapel at MIT. Looking forward to visiting them in the near future!