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News, 10/15/2010

“Eero Saarinen: a Reputation for Innovation” at the Finnish Embassy

Eero Saarinen: a Reputation for Innovation at the Embassy of Finland

Born in Finland, Eero Saarinen (1910 – 1961) is recognized today as one of America’s most influential architects of the 20th Century. The exhibition at the Embassy of Finland will highlight his short but brilliant career bookended in Washington DC with the Smithsonian Gallery of Art Competition in 1939 and Dulles Airport in 1962. The exhibition is open for public Friday through Sunday 11am – 4pm, October 22 – November 28. Free admission!

This year marks the 100th anniversary of Eero Sarinen’s birth. Saarinen is recognized today as one of the America’s most influential architects of the 20th Century. He has built numerous corporate, educational, cultural public and private buildings with such recognizable icons as the St. Louis Gateway Arch, the TWA terminal at JFK, and Dulles Airport.

Tribute to Saarinen’s career in the Nation’s capital

This exhibition is a tribute to Saarinen’s short and brilliant career which was bookended in the Nation’s capital with two iconic buildings: the Smithsonian Gallery of Art, a museum of modern art on the Mall which remained unbuilt and the nation’s first jet airport, Dulles International Airport which was completed one year after his death. 

Saarinen exhibition at the Embassy of Finland. Photo: Mina Marefat. Saarinen exhibition at the Embassy of Finland. Photo: Mina Marefat.

The much-publicized national competition of 1939 catapulted Saarinen into the architectural limelight at the age of 29, marking a triumph for the modernist camp.  Opposition to the cutting edge modernist vocabulary was strong in the pre- World War II era and even though it would influence museums built throughout the world for decades to come, the Smithsonian Gallery of Art remained an unbuilt icon. Lost for 50 years, the discovery of the drawings twenty years ago and their secure place at the Smithsonian Institution confirms that architecture even when unbuilt can be influential, provocative and groundbreaking. 

Shedding light on Saarinen’s secret professional life

Saarinen in the late 1940s. Photo: Yale University.Saarinen in the late 1940s. Photo: Yale University.

Saarinen’s association with Washington continued throughout the war years when he volunteered for the OSS (Office of Strategic Services), the precursor to the CIA (Central Intelligence Agency).  In the 1940s, the newly married Eero took up residence in Georgetown with his young family and set up an office together with his brother-in-law. Recognized for “his outstanding capacity” for original design work in any field, Eero quickly excelled in his service to the OSS to became the chief of the Presentation Division responsible for all exhibits work.

The exhibition at the Embassy of Finland is unique in shedding light on this little known chapter of Eero Saarinen’s secret professional life. While still in his 30’s Eero established himself as one of the most creative product designers with recognizable furniture broke technological and aesthetic boundaries with such icons as the tulip chair and the womb chair.

EERO SAARINEN: A REPUTATION FOR INNOVATION
Exhibition at the Finland Hall, Embassy of Finland
3301 Massachusetts Ave, NW
October 22 – November 28, 2010
Friday through Sunday 11am–4pm
Free admission!

For more information:

Saarinen exhibition at the Embassy of Finland. Photo: Mina Marefat. Saarinen exhibition at the Embassy of Finland. Photo: Mina Marefat.

 Text: Mina Marefat, PhD, Exhibition Curator

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Updated 10/26/2010


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