Finnish Cultural Institute in New York
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BEYOND “THE MEASLY ABC”

One of the most celebrated architects of his time, Eero Saarinen (1910–1961) was also one of the most controversial. The son of internationally famous architect Eliel Saarinen, he was widely acknowledged as a leader of the second generation of modernists who rose to prominence after World War II. While helping to advance his predecessors’ focus on deriving architectural form from new construction technologies, Saarinen sought to expand modernism’s vocabulary beyond what he called “the measly ABC.” He also frequently moved away from simple, abstract compositions in favor of exuberant visual effects and historical references. His works included such 20th-century icons as the General Motors Technical Center, the United States Jefferson National Expansion Memorial, better known as the Gateway Arch, New York’s Trans World Airlines Terminal, and Dulles International Airport Terminal outside Washington, D.C. Though many critics accused Saarinen of inventing a new style for every job, his diverse and sometimes unabashedly theatrical designs attracted powerful clients who played pivotal roles in trends that transformed the culture of the time, from the promotion of automobiles, air travel, television and computers, to the expansion of major corporations and institutions of higher learning. Indeed, so central were Saarinen’s clients to his success that he considered them to be “cocreators.” Although Saarinen died in 1961 at the age of 51, he left a remarkable body of work, as well as a strong legacy of innovation, collaboration, and media savvy, that continues to inform architectural practice today.