Eero Saarinen 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.
Beginning at 7 p.m. Jan. 30 with an opening reception, the Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum will present “Eero Saarinen: Shaping the Future,” the first retrospective to explore the complete career of the acclaimed Finnish- American architect. The exhibit will remain on view at the Kemper Museum through April 27.
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.
Drawn largely from the archives of Saarinen’s office, exhibits 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 media-savvy man in full command of the most sophisticated architectural and design strategies of his day.
In conjunction with “Eero Saarinen: Shaping the Future,” the Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts will host a second exhibition in Steinberg Hall titled “The Gateway Arch and St. Louis.” It also opens at 7 p.m. Jan. 30 but runs through March 9.
The Arch exhibit will highlight the history of the St. Louis waterfront as well as selected submissions to the 1947 competition, including 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 “1,000 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.
“Eero Saarinen: Shaping the Future” was organized by the Finnish Cultural Institute in New York, the Museum of Finnish Architecture in Helsinki and the National Building Museum in Washington, D.C., with the support of the Yale University School of Architecture.
Donald Albrecht curates the exhibition in conjunction with an international consortium of Finnish and American scholars. Peter MacKeith, associate dean of the Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts and associate professor of architecture, serves as St. Louis coordinator for “Eero Saarinen: Shaping the Future.”
MacKeith also collaborated with Eric Mumford, Ph.D., associate professor of archi-tecture, to curate “The Gateway Arch and St. Louis.”
Both the opening reception and the two exhibitions are free and open to the public.
For more information on “Eero Saarinen: Shaping the Future,” call 935-4523 or visit kemperartmuseum.wustl.edu.
For more information on “The Gateway Arch and St. Louis,” call 935-9300 or visit samfoxschool.wustl.edu.