Eliel Saarinen : architect biography

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Eliel Saarinen architect
Eliel Saarinen architect

Eliel Saarinen

Eliel Saarinen architect The 50-year career of Eliel Saarinen (1873-1950) can be divided into two parts. Practicing in Finland for 25 years, he first established an international reputation based on his "National Romantic" and Jugendstill-inspired architecture. The second phase of Eliel Saarinen's career began when he emigrated to the United States in 1923, after placing second the 1922 Chicago Tribune Tower competition. While practicing in the United States, Eliel Saarinen also assumed the role of educator, first at the University of Michigan and then at the Cranbrook Academy of Art. Eliel Saarinen not only designed the Cranbrook complex but, under his stewardship, it became one of the most influential design schools in the nation.

Gottlieb Eliel Saarinen was born in Rantisalmi, Finland, in 1873. A portion of Eliel Saarinen's childhood was spent in the Russian region of Ingermanland near St. Petersburg, a result of his father being in the clergy. The proximity of St. Petersburg provided the young Eliel Saarinen with an urban experience unequaled in more provincial Finland and also gave him access to The Hermitage. Eliel Saarinen initially intended to be a painter, a desire that he acknowledged was stimulated by visits to the museum. After graduating from high school in 1893, Eliel Saarinen enrolled in the Department of Architecture at the Technical Institute in Helsinki, simultaneously taking drawing courses at Helsinki University. While at the Institute, Eliel Saarinen formed friendships with Herman Gesellius and Armas Lindgren; the three formed an architectural partnership in 1896, a year before Eliel Saarinen graduated. The Gesellius, Lindgren and Eliel Saarinen office lasted until 1905, when Lindgren left the partnership; Gesellius and Eliel Saarinen continued to practice together for two additional years. Eliel Saarinen married Gesellius's sister Louise (Loja) in 1904 (his second marriage); they had two children, a daughter Eva-Lisa (Pipsan) and a son Eero.

related links

Eliel Saarinen - From Wikipedia
Eliel Saarinen
Eliel Saarinen - Great Buildings Online
Eliel Saarinen - Awww.scandinaviandesign.com

When the Gesellius, Lindgren, and Eliel Saarinen partnership was formed, Finland was undergoing a period of national self-awareness, a nationalism founded on the desire to search out and understand traditional Finnish cultural origins. This interest in Finland's origins was stimulated when Elias Lonnrot published the first edition of the national folk epic, the Kalevala. The powerful, poetic imagery of the Kalevala, coupled with the interest in developing a national form of artistic expression, provided a profound source of inspiration for Finnish artists that resulted in a style known as national romanticism. National romantic architecture was an adventurous, eclectic ad mixture of sources that included Finnish vernacular and medieval architecture, continental art nouveau imagery, H. H. Richardson. Although the first commission given the firm was the Tallberg Apartments in Helsinki (1897), the Pohjola Insurance Company in Helsinki (1899-1901) was their first truly national romantic work. The Finnish Pavilion for the Paris Exhibition of 1900 established their international reputation. As the firm's reputation increased, so did the commissions, villas, apartment commplexes, and major public works. These works were characterized by picturesque plan compositions, irregular building massings, tactile material vocabulary, and the incorporation of motifs and images from Finnish architectural history. Public buildings, such as the Pohjola Insurance Company and the National Museum in Helsinki (1901-1911), are of granite construction with decorative ornamentation derived from Finnish nature or folktales and inclued specific references to Finnish medieval churches and castles as well as to Richardson's work. Apartment complexes in Helsinki, such as Tallberg, Olofsborg (1900-1902), Fabianinkatu 17 (1900-1901), and EOL (1901-1903), were rendered in painted stucco, with stone appointments and tile roofs and were accented by bay windows and towers.

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The villas, Hvittrask (1902-1904) and Suur-Meriioki (1901-1903), represent the English arts-and-crafts concept of a totally integrated work of art. Hvittrask the studio house of Gesellius, Lindgren, and Eliel Saarinen, is an excellent example of Finnish national romantic architecture. Located on a steep hillside outside Helsinki the compound is ordered about a courtyard within a series of terraced gardens. Presented as a reinterpretation of Finland's vernacular past, the picturesque massing of the complex is articulated with a rustic stone base and stuccoed or shingled walls, has upper stories of log construction, and is capped by a tiled roof. The interior spaces of the Eliel Saarinen house contain a variety of images and detail qualities: the great hall alludes to vernacular farmhouses and a sitting area incorporates motifs from medieval churches; inglenooks and sleeping rooms are executed in the arts-and-crafts style. These spaces are furnished with appointments designed by either the Saarinens or their artist friends. Suur-Merijoki, a splendid country house located near Viipuri, contains the bestdeveloped Eliel Saarinen interiors of his early career. Moreover, these interiors demonstrate a realized total artistic conception facilitated by the close working relationship between architect, artist, and artisan.

After his association with both Lindgren and Gesellius ended, Eliel Saarinen expanded his practice to engage in city planning projects as well as building design. By 1906, having the stylistic limitations of national romanticism, a more classical and monumental spirit emerged in his work as exemplified by the Helsinki Railroad Station (1904-1914). Eliel Saarinen's original competition entry was a rusticated, medieval-referenced national romantic design, whereas the completed work is a balanced, Jugendstil-inspired composition incorporating delicate concrete vaulted interior spaces. This transformation was fostered by the negative criticism Eliel Saarinen's entry received from the more progressive architects of the period; Gustaf Strengell and Sigurd Frosterus launched a vigorous press attack on what they considered to be the backward-looking stylistic qualities of the design. In moving away from national romanticism, Eliel Saarinen's final design, influenced by Frosterus's competition entry, also included suggestions for the urban development surrounding the station. Symmetrical planning combined with pyramidal volumetric massing articulated by strong vertical accents, which often included a dominant tower element, characterized Eliel Saarinen's work before World War I. Eliel Saarinen's competition entries for the Palace of Peace in the Hague (1906) and the Finnish Parliament House (1908), as well as his designs for the town halls in Lappeenranta (1906) Joensuu (1909-1911), Lahti (1911), and Turku (1911) are representative of the classical sensibility informing his architecture at this time. The Kalevala House designed for Helsinki (1921), although never built, is among his most successful monumental designs. Eliel Saarinen was twice commissioned during this period to design Finland's currency, first in 1909 while it was still a Russian Grand Duchy, and again in 1918-1919 after it become an independent nation.

Major works:

Finnish Pavilion at the Exposition Universelle (1900), Paris
Hvittrask, Eliel Saarinen's home in Kirkkonummi 1902
Clubhouse of Luther factory, Tallinn, Estonia 1905
Helsinki Central railway station 1905-1914
National Museum of Finland in Helsinki 1902-1904
Lahti Town Hall, Lahti, Finland 1911
Mutual Reserve Association Building, Tallinn, Estonia 1912
Vyborg railway station (today in Russia) 1904-1913 (destroyed 1941)
Saint Paul's Church, Tartu, Estonia 1917
First Christian Church, Columbus, Indiana 1942
Kleinhans Music Hall, Buffalo, New York; designed in collaboration with his son Eero Saarinen
Original Wing of Des Moines Art Center, Des Moines, Iowa 1945-1948
Cranbrook Educational Community, Bloomfield Hills, Michigan
Christ Church Lutheran, Minneapolis, Minnesota 1949
The Fenton Community Center, Fenton, Michigan

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