Saarinen, Gottlieb Eliel

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Saarinen, Gottlieb Eliel (1873–1950). Finnish-born American architect. He practised with Herman Gesellius and Armas Lindgren from 1896 to 1905, and with Gesellius only until 1907, when he worked on his own, emigrating to the USA in 1923. He established his first American office at Evanston, IL (1923–4), later (1924) moving to Ann Arbor, MI, where he also taught at the School of Architecture, University of Michigan. The firm was joined by his son, Eero Saarinen, in 1937, and then by J. Robert Swanson (1900–81), who was a partner from 1941 to 1947. His early work in Finland was in the National Romantic style to express Finnish identity (when Neo-Classicism was perceived as the architectural language of Tsarist Russia), and was influenced by late Gothic Revival, English Arts-and-Crafts architecture, and contemporary work in the USA, notably the round-arched buildings of H. H. Richardson. Saarinen, Gesellius, and Lindgren designed the Finnish Pavilion for the Exposition Universelle, Paris, of 1900, adding touches of vaguely oriental exoticism. Influences from the Vienna Sezession were apparent in the Hvitträsk Studio House, Kirkkonummi, near Helsinki (begun 1902), designed for the firm as an idealistic variation on English Arts-and-Crafts themes, with a strong input of American vernacular, Shingle style, Jugendstil, and national Finnish elements.

In 1904 Saarinen himself won the competition to design the Helsinki Central Railway Station (erected 1910–14), one of the finest termini of the period, comparable with Leipzig (1905) and Stuttgart (1911—which was influenced by the Helsinki exemplar), having massive masonry walls and a noble composition strongly influenced by the school of Otto Wagner and the work of the Wiener Werkstätte, notably Hoffmann. He came second in the competition to design the Chicago Tribune Building (1922), which made his name in the USA and led to the commission to design the Cranbrook Academy of Art, Bloomfield Hills, MI. Saarinen designed the Cranbrook School for Boys (1926–30) and the Kingswood School for Girls (1929–30) there, followed by the Institute of Science (1931–3), and Museum and Library (1940–3). This beautiful series of Picturesque buildings was evolved in collaboration with his second wife, Louise ( Loja) Gesellius (1879–1968), and is freely eclectic, incorporating Expressionist, round-arched, and vernacular elements. He was President of the Cranbrook Academy of Art from 1932 to 1942, and was joined by his son, Eero, and by Charles Eames, who both taught there. His published works include The Cranbrook Development (1931), The City: Its Growth, Its Decay, Its Future (1943), Search for Form (1948), and The Search for Form in Art and Architecture (1985).


Christ-Janner (1979);
Gaidos (ed.) (1972);
Hausen et al. (1990);
Lampugnani (ed.) (1988);
Placzek (ed.) (1982);
E. Saarinen (1931, 1943, 1948);
Jane Turner (1996)