It is rare for a father and son to share the same birthday. Even rarer is it for such a duo to work in the same profession; rarer still for them both to achieve international success in their respective careers. This, however, is the story of Eliel and Eero Saarinen, the Finnish-American architects whose combined portfolio tells of the development of modernist architectural thought in the United States. From Eliel’s Art Nouveau-inspired Finnish buildings and modernist urban planning to Eero’s International Style offices and neo-futurist structures, the father-son duo produced a matchless body of work culminating in two individual AIA Gold Medals. Both left “profound influences upon the cities where they did their work”, but this influence is not isolated to the context of their work. The students that would pass through the Cranbrook Academy, where Eliel was president from 1932-1948, would go on to change the face of design; the architects who drew inspiration from the approach promoted by Eero continue to shape our built environment today. Looking at their historical and cultural roots influences, we can discover how their architecture inspired design both globally and in their homeland of Finland - and who in the pantheon of architects has built upon the legacy they left behind.
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