AD Classics: Miller House and Garden / Eero Saarinen

© Indianapolis Museum of Art

Completed in 1957 for industrialist and philanthropist J. Irwin Miller and his family in Columbus, , the embodies midcentury Modernism in it’s fullest. Architect Eero Saarinen‘s steel and glass composition has held together very well, proving the quality and use of materials to be worthy of time.

More on the Miller House and Garden after the break.

© Indianapolis Museum of Art

Not the first building designed for these clients by Saarinen, the initial intention of Miller and his wife was to create a year-round dwelling that could be used to entertain business guests from around the world, also doubling as a good environment to raise their children.  As head of Cummins Engine, was to create civic and institutional buildings in their town located 45 miles from Indianapolis, hoping to transform and reinvent into a hub of inventive design. Eero Saarinen worked with interior designer Alexander Girard and landscaper Daniel Kiley to best fulfill the ideas he had in mind for the house and garden.

© Garden Visit

An architectural tradition developed by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, this house encompasses some of the most fundamental aspects of the international Modernist aesthetic, including an open and flowing layout, flat roof and vast stone and glass walls. Saarinen also included ideas of the main walls of public areas extending from floor to ceiling and cut out of marble several inches thick. The exposed edges eliminate a sense of separation between interior and nature through use of huge panes of glass.

© Indianapolis Museum of Art

It is located on a thirteen-acre rectangular site that stretches between a busy street and river. The plan acts as an organized rectangle divided into nine sections, the corners house the master bedroom suite, children’s area, kitchen/laundry, and a zone encompassing the guest room, servant’s quarters and a carport. The children’s rooms were designed with knowledge of standard children’s rooms in Finland, where the private bedroom of each child was made small and functional and attached to a common playroom that tended to encourage social interaction.

© Indianapolis Museum of Art

Totaling around 6,800 square-feet, the one-story house comprised of glass and gray-blue-slate panels is supported by steel cruciform columns and illuminated by a grid of skylights. The interior designing of Alexander Girard creates an intimate and colorful experience, particularly in the living room’s conversation pit. The dining area’s sculptural white pedestal chairs become the center of focus while passing through or stopping to eat and enjoy the company.

© Garden Visit

Landscaping by Kiley is admired for its large geometric gardens and alley of honey locust trees, which run alon the west side of the house.

In 2000, the property underwent a $2 million dollar restoration and the National Historic Landmark was reopened to the  public.The Irwin-Sweeney-Miller Foundation and the Miller family have donated around $5 million, and the Indianapolis Museum of Art is continuing to raise more funds.

© Indianapolis Museum of Art

Architect: Eero Saarinen
Location: Columbus, Indiana
Project Year: 1957
References: Eero Saarinen
Photographs: Indianapolis Museum of Art, Garden Visit

Cite: Sveiven, Megan. "AD Classics: Miller House and Garden / Eero Saarinen" 02 Mar 2011. ArchDaily. Accessed 21 Sep 2014. <>


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    Correction! Landscape Architect Daniel Kiley. Calling Kiley a landscaper would be like calling Saarinen a building contractor. Get it right people. This iconic project is a great example of an architect and landscape architect collaborating from the beginning of a project.

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    Completed by architect Eero Sarrinen in 1957, the Miller House is a period piece in midcentury modern architecture. Well-known modern works such as Glass House by Philip Johnson and Mies van der Rohe’s Farnsworth House feature fundamental modern elements visibly noticeable to those used in the Miller House design. The Miller House was unlike any other modern architecture houses built in this time and area; it achieved a modernist design that was entirely livable for a family of seven and suitable to its site. It advanced from the straight steel-and-glass modernism through a more flexible approach tailoring to the users personality and character of place. Its modern fundamentals incorporate many characteristics of the international style such as the stone walls, deep overhanging eaves, flat roof, open floor plan, and the indistinguishable separation between nature and the interior. The Miller House has characteristics and a functional meaning that mark midcentury modernism in its fullest.

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