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Eero Saarinen: Shaping the Future

The Walker Art Center and the Minneapolis Institute of Arts jointly present this first major museum retrospective of architect Eero Saarinen’s short but prolific career. Saarinen was one of the most celebrated, unorthodox, and controversial masters of 20th-century architecture. In many ways he was the architect of what has been dubbed “the American century,” the post-World War II era when the United States emerged as an influential world superpower.

Although Saarinen’s most iconic and publicly recognizable design is the soaring Gateway Arch in St. Louis, his work spanned many different areas of architectural practice, including the design of airports, corporate and academic campuses, churches and private residences, and furniture. Although criticized by his peers at the time for having a different style for each project, Saarinen rejected the dogma of an orthodox modernism and instead adopted a varied approach to architectural design, letting the subject and site guide his inventive solutions. His resulting body of work includes such masterpieces as the sweeping concrete curves of the TWA Terminal (1956–1962) at New York’s JFK Airport; the grandeur of General Motors Technical Center (1948–1956), dubbed an “industrial Versailles” by the media; and the iconic Womb Chair and Ottoman (1946–1948) or the innovative Pedestal (1954–1957) series of tables and chairs, both for Knoll and all classics of mid-century modernism.

Featured in the exhibition are never-before-seen sketches, working drawings, models, photographs, furnishings, films, and other ephemera from various archives and private collections. Exploring his entire output of more than 50 built and unbuilt projects, it provides a unique opportunity to consider Saarinen’s innovations in the use of new materials, technologies, and construction techniques within the larger context of postwar modern architecture.

In this collaborative presentation, the Walker Art Center will feature Saarinen’s furnishings and residences as well as his designs for churches and academic and corporate campuses, while the Minneapolis Institute of Arts will present his designs for airports, memorials, and embassies, as well as his early work within the context of its modernist design collection.

A catalogue accompanies the exhibition.

Curator: Donald Albrecht, independent curator and curator of architecture and design at the
Museum of the City of New York

Walker Coordinating Curator: Andrew Blauvelt

Minneapolis Institute of Arts Coordinating Curator: Jennifer Komar Olivarez, Associate
Curator of Architecture, Design, Decorative Arts, Craft & Sculpture