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Fiona Mckay

We started the 2017 Film Night series with the screening of  Eero Saarinen : The Architect Who Saw the Future. Many thanks to Peter Rosen Productions for getting the documentary to us very quickly, and affording us the rights for the first United Kingdom screening, shortly after it had aired on Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) TV in the United States.

Eero Saarinen: The Architect Who Saw the Future, explores the life and visionary work of Finnish-American modernist architectural giant Eero Saarinen (1910-1961). Best known for designing St. Louis’ iconic Gateway Arch and New York’s TWA Flight Centre at John F. Kennedy International Airport. Saarinen also designed Yale University’s Ingalls Rink, The Morse & Ezra Stiles Colleges, Virginia’s Dulles Airport, and modernist pedestal furniture like the Tulip chair. His sudden death at age 51 cut short one of the most influential careers in American architecture. 

Saarinen’s son, director of photography and co-producer Eric Saarinen, visits the sites of his father’s work on a cathartic journey. The documentary also features rare archival interviews with Eero and his second wife, The New York Times art critic Aline Saarinen, as well as letters and quotations from Aline’s memoirs, voiced respectively by Peter Franzén and Blythe Danner. “Closure was something I didn’t have with my dad. But I forgive him for his genius,” said Eric Saarinen, ASC. “He figured out a way to be important across time, so even though he died young, he is still alive.”

The son of prominent Finnish architect Eliel Saarinen and textile designer Loja Saarinen, Eero was surrounded by design his whole life, as was his son Eric, whose mother Lily Saarinen was a sculptor, artist and educator. Immigrating at the age of 13 to Bloomfield Hills, Michigan USA, Eero attended Cranbrook Academy of Art, designed by Eliel --who taught there and became the school’s first president, as well as the chief architect of the Cranbrook campus, with Eero designing details like gargoyles and chairs. Eric also grew up at Cranbrook with his parents, grandparents, their friends & collaborators, including his godparents, designers Charles and Ray Eames. 

The film was sold out a day in advance, with continued demand for tickets high on the screening day. It was very well received by those in attendance, and the discussion that followed was very lively. Apologies to those who weren’t able to attend, but we hope to see you at our next screening on 07 March of Daniel Liebskind: Welcome to the 21st Century, at 1900hrs on 22 November at the BFI. 

We look forward to welcoming more of you to that and other screenings, and many thanks to all who have attended!


Author: Christopher Musangi AIA

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