Saarinen Family Story Told

HANCOCK – The architectural and design achievements of the Finnish Saarinen family were the subject of a presentation this past week, at the Finlandia University Finnish American Heritage Center.

“The Artistry of the Saarinens,” was presented by Mark Coir, director of archives at the Cranbrook Educational Community, Bloomington Hills, Mich.

After Mr.Coir's presentation Susan Saarinen, the granddaughter of architect Eliel Saarinen and the daughter of architect Eero Saarinen, provided the audience with personal insight into the lives of her extremely talented and artistic family.
Photo above Susan Saarinen  and Mark Coir sit in the Saarinen designed "Tulip" chair
Saarinen and Coir are the Finlandia Foundation 2007-08 Lecturers of the Year.

The presentation was sponsored by the City of Hancock’s Finnish Theme Committee (a Finlandia Foundation chapter) and Finlandia University.
Susan Saarinen, principal of Saarinen Landscape Architecture in Golden, Colorado, is the daughter of architect Eero Saarinen, designer of the St. Louis Arch, and grand-daughter of Eliel Saarinen. She grew up at Cranbrook, an intensely creative environment, where sculptor Carl Milles and ceramist Maija Grotell taught and where her God-father, Charles Eames, furniture designer Florence Knoll and sculptor Lily Swann, among others, met and developed their crafts.

Susan is a landscape architect, an artist and a teacher.
Mark Coir has served as the Director of Archives
and Cultural Properties, Cranbrook Educational Community, Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, for the past twenty-five years. His scholarly interests have focused on the rich cultural heritage of Cranbrook and especially on the achievements of the famed Saarinen family, native Finns who built extraordinary artistic careers in the United States. Among recent publications he has contributed to are Eero Saarinen:
Shaping the Future (2007) and Craft in America (2006)
a reception for Saarinen and Coir was held prior to the evening's lecture
Architect Eliel Saarinen (1873-1950) designed the Helsinki Train Station, buildings at the Cranbrook Academy of Art in Bloomfield Hills, Mich., and distinctive furniture and carpets. His design for the Cranbrook campus, which the entire family worked on, served as a model of artistic collaboration and furthered his conviction that architecture must encompass the “total environment,” from landscapes to buildings to furnishings and decorative objects.
Eero Saarinen (1910–1961), Eliel’s son, designed Nikander Hall at Finlandia University. Among Eero’s more widely known architecture and design work are the St. Louis Arch, the School of Music at the University of Michigan, and the “Tulip” or “Pedestal” chair. He was widely acknowledged as a leader of the second generation of modernists who rose to prominence after World War II. His works also include such 20th-century icons as the General Motors Technical Center, Detroit, New York’s Trans World Airlines Terminal, and Dulles International Airport Terminal outside Washington, D.C.
Other prominent artistic members of the Saarinen family include Louise, or "Loja" (1879- 1968), Eliel's wife, a textile designer and sculptor; and Pipsan (1905- 1979), Eero's sister, a designer and interior decorator.


Eliel Saarinen

Eliel Saarinen was born in Rantasalmi, Finland in 1873. After he graduated from Helsinki Polytechnic, he practiced with Herman Gesellius and Armas Lindgren. In 1923 he emigrated to the U.S. where he designed and then taught at Cranbrook. His son, Eero, became his partner in 1937.

Saarinen's early monumentality owes much to the Vienna Secession movement. His designs expressed a Nordic refinement of the European Art Nouveau. Saarinen's work depended on the integration of cultural symbolism with material and form. His work also owed much to the combined precedents of Finnish farm settlements and the Arts & Crafts movement.

Saarinen borrowed from the forms and materials of both past and present, regional and international. He abstracted classical style and Finnish vernacular to suit the Finnish sensibility. By 1902 his buildings began to exhibit the clean massing and heaviness of traditional Finnish buildings. Because of the simplicity of his designs, he was linked to minimalism.

Eliel Saarinen died in Michigan in 1950.
above - The Helsinki Railroad Station

Saarinen house at the Cranbrook Campus
Eero Saarinen was born in Finland in 1910 and emigrated to the United States with his family in 1923. Eero’s career began in collaboration with his remarkably gifted family: his father, Eliel (1873– 1950), the architect of Helsinki’s main train station and many other prominent buildings; his mother, Louise, or “Loja” (1879– 1968), a textile designer and sculptor; and his sister, Eva-Lisa, or “Pipsan” (1905– 1979), a designer and interior decorator
above Eero works on a model his favorite method of design. He did much more modeling than drawing.
. Eliel’s design for the Cranbrook campus in suburban Detroit, which the entire family worked on, would remain an important touchstone throughout Eero’s career. It served as a model of artistic collaboration and the conviction that architecture must encompass the “total environment,” from landscapes to buildings to furnishings and decorative objects. Equally influential on Eero’s later efforts to enrich modern design were his sculpture classes in Paris (1929– 1930), his architectural education at Yale University (1931– 1934), and his subsequent travels in Europe, Egypt, and Mexico to see some of the great monuments of architectural history.
above the Famous TWA terminal in New York
above - General Motors Technical Center
above - John Deere Headquarters
above IBM Headquarters
above - Dulles Aiport, Washington D.C.
above - the St. Louis Gateway Arch
Eero Saarinen was one of the most prolific, unorthodox, and controversial masters of 20th-century architecture. Although his career was cut short by death at age 51 in 1961, Eero Saarinen was one of the most celebrated architects of his time, both at home and abroad.

In the postwar decades of what has been called “the American Century,” Saarinen helped create the international image of the United States with his designs for some of the most potent symbolic expressions of American identity such as St. Louis Gateway Arch (1948-64), General Motors Technical Center (1948-56), Detroit and TWA Terminal (1956-62) at New York's John F. Kennedy Airport  is a Michigan, Non-Profit Media Corporation


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