How Three Colleges Brought Modernist Design to the US

Entries to the Chicago Trinbune Competition, such as this one by Gropius and Meyer, may have sparked debate about modernism in the US, but lost to a more traditional design. However, a decade and a half later, for three colleges revived the debate. Image via thecharnelhouse.org

Though modernism was developed in the 1920s, and was popular among many architects by the time the 1930s arrived, in many places it took years for the style to gain favor among clients. In the , people often point to the 1922 Chicago Tribune Tower Competition as a turning point, the winning entry was actually a neo-gothic design. In this article, which originally appeared on Curbed, Marni Epstein looks at another potential turning point: three high-profile competitions in the late 1930s where modernist designs were (sometimes controversially) successful.

The Great Depression of the 1930s hit everyone, and hard—even architects and draftsmen found themselves out of work as development and construction dried up amid vanishing capital. They found a partial solution in the Historic American Buildings Survey and Historic American Engineering Record, two programs of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Works Progress Administration that involved surveying and cataloging the country’s existing infrastructure. These programs, however, were a long way from the prestige, creativity, and financial rewards that came with new architectural commissions. The work available was limited, and what work existed was focused on the architecture of the past, not designs for the future.

AD Classics: North Christian Church / Eero Saarinen

© Flickr user Danube66

Just off the highway that leads to the town of Columbus, Indiana, the most slender of spires shoots upward from the tree line. With only a small gold cross at the top suggesting its purpose, the spire seems to belong to another world, an expressive gesture reaching into the sky that extends far beyond its visible tip. As visitors approach, the base of the spire fans out and merges with the ground, subsuming it and metaphysically bridging the distance between the heavens and the Earth. This is the famous North Christian Church, Eero Saarinen’s stunning discourse on God, nature and architecture.

Spotlight: Eliel & Eero Saarinen

© Exothermic

Perhaps the most famous father-son duo in the architectural world, Eliel and Eero Saarinen share more than just a last name. The two designers both left profound influences upon the cities where they did their work, both were awarded AIA Gold Medals, and, rather uncannily, both share the very same date of birth. But, when it comes to their architectural stylings, that’s where the comparisons end. Find out more about both after the break.

AD Round Up: Awesome Airports

AD Classics: Dulles International Airport / Eero Saarinen. Image © MWAA

If there is a universal truth, it is that nobody likes spending time in an airport. This article from the Financial Times corroborates this fact, pointing out that, no matter how well-designed a terminal is, people make every effort to leave it as soon as possible. While the novelty of air travel has worn off since its inception in the 20th century, the work devoted to designing airports has only increased. We’ve collected some of our favorite terminals we’d actually love to get stuck in, including works by Eero Sarinen, SOM, Fentress, J. Mayer H., KCAP, Paul Andreu, bblur architecture and 3DReid, Corgan Associates, De Bever, and Studio Fuksas. Enjoy!

Photos of Eero Saarinen’s Abandoned Bell Labs

© Rob Dobi

This article by Samuel Medina originally appeared in Metropolis Magazine, titled “Eero Saarinen’s Bell Labs, Now Devoid of Life” and features stunning photos of the abandoned leviathan by Rob Dobi.

At its peak, thousands passed through its massive, light-filled atrium. Today, Bell Labs Holmdel stands empty, all of its 1.9-million-square-feet utterly without life. An iconic example of the now-disparaged office park, the campus in central Jersey, was shuttered in 2007 and vacated soon after. Years later, it remains in an abandoned, if not unkept state. The grounds are cared for, the floors swept clean, and the interior plantings trimmed, however haphazardly. (That’s saying something; in the laboratory’s heyday, plastic shrubbery filled its glorious central hall.)

More about the building’s future, and more photos by Rob Dobi, after the break

The Sydney Opera House: Celebrating 40 Years

© Flickr – User: Jong Soo (Peter) Lee

Today is the 40th anniversary of the completion of the Sydney Opera House, the symbol of . Since its opening in 1973, the Opera House has welcomed over 65 million people to more than 80,000 memorable events. To celebrate, an Anniversary program will run from mid to late October, with concerts, tours, exhibitions, and cake! A true masterpiece that continues to redefine the ambitions of , the Opera House is part of an incredible story, a work of architecture that belongs to everyone.

André Balazs Tapped to Transform JFK’s Historic TWA Terminal

AD Classics: TWA Terminal / . Image © nyc-architecture.com

, CEO of André Balazs Properties, has been tapped by Port Authority officials to redevelop the historic, Eero Saarinen-designed TWA terminal at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York. Balazs will transform the terminal into the “Standard, Flight Center” hotel and conference center, equipped with food and beverage space, retail, a spa and fitness center, meeting facilities and a flight museum.

‘Eero Saarinen: A Reputation for Innovation’ Exhibition

Courtesy of Museum of Design (MODA)

Taking place now until June 30 at the Museum of Design Atlanta, the ‘Eero Saarinen: A Reputation for Innovation’ exhibition pays tribute to Saarinen’s brief yet brilliant career, in which he designed numerous corporate, educational, cultural, public, and private buildings, including recognizable icons like the Saint Louis Gateway Arch, the TWA Terminal at ’s JFK Airport, and Dulles Airport in Washington DC. Also breaking new ground by shedding light on a little known chapter of Saarinen’s secret professional life during World War II, the exhibit highlights the architect’s work and a study of the design principles he followed. For more information, please visit here.

“Eero Saarinen: A Reputation for Innovation” Opens Tomorrow in LA

Dulles International Airport © Design Research & Balthazar Korab

Born in Finland, Eero Saarinen (1910 – 1961) is recognized today as one of America’s most influential architects of the 20th Century. The exhibition Eero Saarinen: A Reputation for Innovation, opening tomorrow at the A+D Architecture and Design Museum in , will highlight his short but brilliant career bookended with two iconic buildings: the unbuilt Smithsonian Gallery of Art which was to be Washington, DC’s first museum of modern art and Dulles International Airport which was designed as the nation’s first jet airport.

Kevin Roche: Architecture as Environment

Ford Foundation HQ/ Courtesy John Dinkeloo and Associates

Kevin Roche: Architecture as Environment will be opening June 16th, 2012 at the in Washington, D.C. The exhibit, organized by Yale Institute, will celebrate Kevin Roche’s expansive portfolio, from his early days as Eero Saarinen’s “right-hand man” through the founding of his practice in the 1960s with John Dinkeloo (KRJDA). The exhibit will include images, drawings, interviews, models, as well as original slide presentations to clients. More on the exhibit after the break.

PBS lists Top Ten Buildings that Changed America

Vanna Venturi House / © Maria Buszek

PBS has released their selections of the top ten buildings that have changed the way Americans live, work and play. From ’s 224-year-0ld Virginia State Capitol to Robert Ventui’s postmodern masterpiece the Vanna Venturi House, each building on the list will be featured in a new TV and web production coming to PBS in 2013. Continue after the break to view the top ten influential buildings and let us know your thoughts!

On Oikonomia: Saarinen’s Ezra Stiles College Open After $55M Renovation

Ezra Stiles College under construction, 1961. Copyright Balthazar Korab Ltd.

NEW HAVEN, –Yale’s Ezra Stiles College, designed by Eero Saarinen and completed in 1961, reopened to students last month after a one-year, $55 million dollar renovation. The project was the last in a complete overhaul of all the residential colleges at Yale, which started in 1998 and has cost over $500 million (adjusted for inflation).

Students are happy with the work, praising the new brick pizza oven in the dining hall, shift from single to suite-style rooms, and improved furniture and lighting. Jon Rubin ’12 told the Yale Daily News (YDN) the renovated Stiles is “definitely a step up” from the college he lived in two years ago.

AD Classics: David S. Ingalls Skating Rink / Eero Saarinen

Photo by Liz Waytkus - http://www.flickr.com/photos/rippinkittin8/

Built in 1958, the David S Ingalls Skating Rink is characterized by a sweeping domed roof, was designed by Yale graduate and is lovingly known as the Yale whale. This hockey rink contains a span 200 feet long by 85 feet wide and does so with a natural sense of flow and polish.

AD Classics: Gateway Arch / Eero Saarinen

© www.flickr.com / Exothermic

Built to commemorate the westward expansion of the , the Gateway Arch designed by Eero Saarinen became a futuristic marker that rose above the cityscape of . In its design, this monument drew from previous symbolic constructs of similar aspiration, scale and mathematical precision.

Architecture City Guide: Columbus

This week our Architecture City Guide is headed to Columbus; that is. We have already made the trip to Columbus, Ohio. This lesser known Columbus only has a population of 44,000 people, but for what it lacks in size it makes up in architecture. Columbus, perhaps, has more notable modern architecture buildings per capita than any city in the . In fact, it was much harder narrowing the list down to 12 projects than finding enough for the city guide. With the buildings not on the list, it will be impossible to please everyone. Notably our list doesn’t even include Romaldo Giurgola’s Columbus East High School, Cesar Pelli’s Commons Centre and Mall, and SOM’s Republic Newspaper Building. Take a look at the 12 on our list and add your favorites in the comment section below.

The Architecture City Guide: Columbus list and corresponding map after the break.

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, Indiana, the embodies midcentury Modernism in it’s fullest. Architect ‘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.

Architecture City Guide: Boston

For this week the Architecture City Guide series headed to the city of Boston including neighboring Cambridge just across the Charles River Basin. This area has an overwhelmingly large amount of modern architecture in a small radius, and our list reflects just that. What buildings do you want to see added to our Boston list, share them with us in the comment section below.

The Architecture City Guide: Boston list and corresponding map after the break!

AD Classics: MIT Chapel / Eero Saarinen

Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons, © daderot

Eero Saarinen is one of the most respected architects of the 20th Century, often regarded as a master of his craft.  Known for his dynamic and fluid forms, his design for the Institute of Technology’s chapel takes on a different typology than his previous works.  Completed in 1955, the Chapel is a simple cylindrical volume that has a complex and mystical quality within.  Saarinen’s simple design is overshadowed by the interior form and light that were meant to awaken spirituality in the visitor.

The non-denominational chapel is intended to be more than just a religious building, rather it’s meant to be a place of solitude and escape that induces a process of reflections.  Located at the heart of MITs campus, the chapel’s cylindrical form breaks the rigidity of the campus’s orthogonal grid.

More on the MIT Chapel after the break.