Eero Saarinen (1910-1961) was among the most prolific, unorthodox and controversial architects of the 20th century, creator of the monumental St. Louis Gateway Arch as well as sweepingly abstract terminals for New York’s John F. Kennedy International and Washington’s Dulles International airports. In January the Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum at Washington University in St. Louis will present Eero Saarinen: Shaping the Future, the first retrospective to explore the complete career of the acclaimed Finnish American architect.
In the 1940s and ’50s Saarinen developed innovative construction techniques and deployed a highly personal, exuberant and often metaphorical aesthetic that defied Modernist orthodoxies and gave iconic form to the postwar American ideals of diversity, openness and unbounded freedom — ideals that persist to this day. At the same time, though often celebrated as a lone, heroic creator, Saarinen worked frequently and enthusiastically with other architects, artists, engineers and clients to create cohesive, harmonious environments across a wide range of architectural scales.
Eero Saarinen: Shaping the Future comprehensively examines both aspects of Saarinen’s oeuvre, investigating the aesthetic, cultural and political significance of his work within the larger context of postwar modern architecture, while also exploring the personal and working relationships between the architect and his many collaborators. Materials, drawn largely from the archives of Saarinen’s office, include drawings and full-scale building mock-ups of more than 50 built and proposed projects — from private residences, to religious and educational buildings, to large-scale urban planning projects such as airports and corporate headquarters — as well as photographs, personal documents, press clippings, films and other ephemera.
The resulting portrait shows the architect to have been guided by a clear vision of modern life as a constant collaborative dialogue. Saarinen also emerges as a man in full command of the most sophisticated — and media-savvy —architectural and design strategies of his age.
In conjunction with Eero Saarinen: Shaping the Future, the Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts will host a second exhibition, titled On the Riverfront: The Gateway Arch and St. Louis. The show will highlight the history of the St. Louis waterfront as well as selected submissions to the 1947 competition, Saarinen’s own entry, and his subsequent drawings and models. A daylong symposium of the same title will take place Jan. 31. In addition, the Kemper Art Museum will sponsor 1000 Arches, a community project that invites the public to create short films inspired by the Gateway Arch. Selected entries will be screened at the museum April 18.
ORGANIZERS AND SPONSORS
Eero Saarinen: Shaping the Future was organized by the Finnish Cultural Institute in New York, the Museum of Finnish Architecture, Helsinki, and the National Building Museum, Washington, D.C., with the support of the Yale University School of Architecture. The exhibition is curated by Donald Albrecht in conjunction with an international consortium of Finnish and American scholars.
Peter MacKeith, associate dean and associate professor of architecture in the Sam Fox School, serves as St. Louis coordinator for Eero Saarinen: Shaping the Future. MacKeith also collaborated with Eric Mumford, associate professor of architecture, to curate On the Riverfront: The Gateway Arch and St. Louis.
The global sponsor for Eero Saarinen: Shaping the Future is ASSA ABLOY. Additional support is provided by Kevin Roche John Dinkeloo and Associates.
Local support is provided by the Missouri Arts Council, a state agency; James M. Kemper, Jr.; the David Woods Kemper Memorial Foundation; the Hortense Lewin Art Fund; the AIA St. Louis Chapter Scholarship Trust; Cannon Design; U. S. Steel Granite City Works; Knoll; Mackey Mitchell Architects; HOK; Arts and Education Council; Design Within Reach; Arcturis; and individual supporters of the Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum. Promotional support is provided by The Gateway Arch Riverfront.
Support for On the Riverfront: The Gateway Arch and St. Louis is provided by the Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts.
MILDRED LANE KEMPER ART MUSEUM
The Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum, part of Washington University’s Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts, is committed to furthering critical thinking and visual literacy through a vital program of exhibitions, publications and accompanying events. The museum dates back to 1881, making it the oldest art museum west of the Mississippi River. Today it boasts one of the finest university collections in the United States.
Eero Saarinen: Shaping the Future will open with a reception from 7 to 9 p.m. Friday, Jan. 30, 2009, and remain on view through April 27. Both the reception and exhibition are free and open to the public. The Kemper Art Museum is located on Washington University’s Danforth Campus, near the intersection of Skinker and Forsyth boulevards. Regular hours are 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays; 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Fridays; and 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays. The museum is closed Tuesdays. For more information, call (314) 935-4523 or visit kemperartmuseum.wustl.edu.
On the Riverfront: The Gateway Arch and St. Louis will open from 7 to 9 p.m. Jan. 30 and will remain on view through March 9. The daylong symposium of the same title will take place Jan. 31. Both will be held in Steinberg Hall, located immediately adjacent to the Kemper Art Museum. In addition, the museum will screen selected entries from 1,000 Arches April 18.
WHO: Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum
WHAT: Exhibition, Eero Saarinen: Shaping the Future
WHEN: Jan. 30 to April 27, 2009. Opening reception 7 to 9 p.m. Friday, Jan. 30.
WHERE: Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum, Washington University, near the intersection of Forsyth and Skinker boulevards.
HOURS: 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday, Wednesday and Thursdays; 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Fridays; 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays. Closed Tuesdays.
COST: Free and open to the public.
INFORMATION: (314) 935-4523 or www.kemperartmuseum.wustl.edu