Eero Saarinen: A Reputation for Innovation at the Museum of Design Atlanta (MODA)

Full frontal womb chair, courtesy Museum of Design Atlanta

Full frontal womb chair, courtesy Museum of Design Atlanta

I took Saturday off. Perhaps I was procrastinating cleaning up my garage, or maybe I was just resting my eyes. I ended up in a sweet spot for a future minimalist: the Eero Saarinen exhibition.

Think tulip chair, womb chair, St. Louis Gateway Arch, TWA’s International Terminal at JFK.

St Louis Gateway Arch, courtesy MODA Atlanta

St Louis Gateway Arch, courtesy Museum of Design Atlanta

Here’s a Saarinen quote on his one-legged tulip chair.  “I wanted to clear up the slum of legs… I wanted to make the chair all one thing again.”  He thought the “undercarriage of chairs and tables in a typical interior makes a confusing unrestful world.”

Saarinen said his job in designing airport terminals at Dulles and JFK was to “design a building in which the architecture itself would express the drama and specialness and excitement of travel… a place of movement and transition.” With today’s pack-em-in philosophy of air travel, we could use some of that specialness now.

Interior, TWA Terminal at JFK, Courtesy of Museum of Design Atlanta

Interior, TWA Terminal at JFK, Courtesy of Museum of Design Atlanta

Some of the Saarinen Team’s innovations that are now standard: Baggage is taken at ground level while passengers proceed to boarding gates for departure, and passengers on arrival get their luggage from moving carousels. Saarinen died in 1961, young at 51, a year before the Dulles and JFK terminals were completed, and before the construction of the Gateway Arch was even begun.

Nostalgia:  There’s no way to count how many times I flew in and out of the TWA terminal at JFK, back when Bob and I worked for the airlines.  Was it jet lag that kept me from photographing it? Or maybe, if I organize those boxes of slides I’ve stockpiled, I’ll find I have some after all. I studied the model in the exhibition, remembering the first sight of the sweeping roofline when landing, and walking on the curving ramps inside. TWA’s president wanted a building that captured “the spirit of flight.”  It occurs to me now that TWA once had a lock on the first passenger flights to the moon.

Something new:  We’re often told that Eero Saarinen was born in Finland in 1910, the son of Finnish architect Eliel Saarinen, but here I learned that his mother, Loja Gizellius Saarinen, was a sculptor and textile artist.

So what’s this doing on my hoarder-blog?

It’s a design-for-living thing. That quote about drama and specialness and excitement hit home, literally. In this “confusing unrestful world” we can’t control much (especially the lack of specialness in air travel; that won’t come again). What we can control are the rooms we live in, and by paring down and keeping just what’s useful and special, we express the “drama and excitement” of what matters in our lives. Anything more is just clutter.

If you live in the Atlanta area or are traveling soon, check out what’s coming next at MODA.  See you there?

http://www.museumofdesign.org/

Exit through the gift shop:  MODA has a fine one. Too bad I’m in de-acquisition mode.

MODA gift shop window. My photo: hoardercomesclean@wordpress.com

Love the pigs. (hoarders could put coins there)

A parting look:

Saarinen Womb Chair and Tulip Table IMG_3167, My photo: hoardercomesclean@wordpress.com

Saarinen Womb Chair and Tulip Table in the MODA window.

Related links:

The exhibition showed video by Charles and Ray Eames, produced in 1958, proposing innovative airport design. I found it here:

http://laughingsquid.com/the-expanding-airport-by-charles-and-ray-eames-1958/

As for the Gateway Arch, I visited once on an Art Department trip in college. There were too many of us to go up the elevators at one time, so we went in separate groups. While our friends looked out the observation windows up top, we on the ground decided to arrange ourselves to spell a message for them. I think it was something significant like “HI” – yeah, undergraduates. Here’s a youtube link to another film, also shown in the exhibition, documenting the building of the arch, with a “railway to the sky” to transport materials up:

http://www.gatewayarch.com/

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3 thoughts on “Eero Saarinen: A Reputation for Innovation at the Museum of Design Atlanta (MODA)

    • I’m still nostalgic about the old TWA terminal at New York’s JFK airport. We came through there in October and I looked for it but did not see it (the airport is so large). I’ll do my homework next time and know where to go. I love the chairs too.

  1. Pingback: Sisters unite – my first ever award nomination « Pip Marks

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