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Culture Concierge:

April 15, 2013

Eero Saarinen: Modernist Icon on Exhibit at MODA

This architect’s space-age designs set the tone for mid-century constructions.

By Nancy Staab

The architect behind the swooping curves of L.A.’s TWA Terminal and the Saint Louis Arch is celebrated at Museum of Design Atlanta on April 13-June 30.

Clockwise from top: Dulles Airport, Saarinen, St. Louis Arch, pedestal tables, TWA flight center,Womb chairs by Saarinen Clockwise from top: Dulles Airport, Saarinen, St. Louis Arch, pedestal tables, TWA flight center,Womb chairs by Saarinen

Museum of Design Atlanta (MODA) celebrates one of Modernism’s chief architects, Finnish-American Eero Saarinen, April 13-June30. Best known for the sweeping, Jetson-Age curves of his TWA Flight Center/ Terminal in L.A., Saarinen helped define Mid-Century modern design. The Yale grad hob-nobbed with other design greats like Charles and Ray Eames and Florence Knoll and created iconic construction like the graceful feat of engineering that is the St. Louis Arch or the futuristic TWA building. His motif of curves and shells was also repeated in the Dulles, Washington Airport design and the Kresge Auditorium for MIT.

The famous Tulip Chair by Saarinen The famous Tulip Chair by Saarinen

And Saarinen also applied his clean-lined aesthetic to furniture with his famous Pedestal furniture and Womb and Tulip chairs for Knoll. The MODA exhibit delves into all of these designs, as well as Saarinen’s little-known stint in the OSS (Office of Strategic Services) in World War 11, where he drew illustrations for bomb disassembly manuals and provided designs for the Situation Room at the White House. Post the war, Saarinen set up his own architecture firm, and the rest, as they say, is history. Another little known fact: Saarinen was on the jury for the building of the Sydney Opera House and was instrumental in selecting the then little-known architect Jorn Utzon for the landmark design of the Opera House after his plans had previously been rejected by the committee.  Saarinen died early at age 51 of a brain tumor but his signature architecture live on, with it’s space-age swoops, curves and clean lines inspiring new generations of builders.

See “Eero Saarinen: A Reputation for Innovation” at MODA on April 14-June 30. For more info:


MODA’s New Executive Director and Future Exhibits

In February, MODA announced that Executive Director Brenda Galina was stepping down after five years of remarkable service. During her tenure, Galina led the museum’s 2011 move to its showcase new facility in Midtown by Perkins + Will, hosted record-setting exhibitions, expanded the board of directors, and founded the highly successful campMODA LEGO Robotics program. Galina was replaced by MODA’s Associate Director Laura Flusche. Prior to MODA, Flusche spent 15 years in Italy as Assistant Academic Dean of an American university program; taught art history and archeology in Rome; and founded The Institute of Design + Culture, a non-profit arts and culture educational organization. Flusche holds a Ph.D. in Ancient Roman and Etruscan Art and Archeology from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and a masters in Italian Renaissance Art from the University of Illinois.

Up next for MODA: innovative new exhibits on video game design in conjunction with Georgia Tech’s Digital Media Program, called “XYZ: Alternative Voices in Game Design;” an exhibit that spotlights a unique wine barrel ( ie. “barrique”) recycling project in Europe that harnessed the design talents of Karim Rashid, Angela Missoni, Alessandro Mendini, etc., called “Barrique: Wine, Design and Social Change” Sept. 15-Oct.13; and “Score: Sports, Art + Design” (Feb. 26-April 27, 2014), focusing on the impact of design and technology on the sports arena. 

Kresge Auditorium at MIT in Boston, by Saarinen Kresge Auditorium at MIT in Boston, by Saarinen


Charles Eames (left) and Eero Saarinen (center) Charles Eames (left) and Eero Saarinen (center)