TIME People

How Eero Saarinen Became One of America’s Best-Known Architects

Eero Saarinen
Ron Case—Getty Images Architect Eero Saarinen with the model of the new proposed US Embassy in London, June 5, 1956.

Aug. 20, 1910: Eero Saarinen is born

It would have been difficult for Eero Saarinen to escape the pull of architecture. Born on this day, Aug. 20, in 1910, to Finland’s top architect — Eliel Saarinen — Eero grew up surrounded by blueprints and building models. His father’s studio doubled as the family’s immense living room, where Eero and his sister, Pipsan, mingled with the ever-present draftsmen and designers.

“Such a beehive of cultural activity was calculated either to smother or force the children,” TIME noted. “In the case of Eero and Pipsan, it forced. By the time Eero was five, his talent for drawing had shown itself. Sitting under his father’s drafting tables, he busily turned out his own versions of door details and houses.”

Of course, Eero didn’t remain in the shadow of his father’s drafting tables; he flourished in his own right. That he made a name for himself — apart from the family name — is evident in TIME’s 1956 cover story, which proclaimed, “…of the whole U.S. cast of modern architects, none has a better proportioned combination of imagination, versatility and good sense than Eero Saarinen.”

But as Eero told TIME, he owed a good part of his success to his father, who was both his role model and longtime collaborator. While the elder Saarinen was alive, according to the New York Times (in a 1953 profile written by the art critic whom Eero would later marry), “Eero neither rebelled nor rejected: he remained architecturally, as well as filially, deferential.”

“I often contributed technical solutions and plans,” Eero is quoted as saying, “but only within the concept he created.”

Still, the Saarinens were innately competitive — and had a knack for winning contests. At age 12, per TIME, Eero placed first in a matchstick design contest sponsored by a Swedish newspaper, winning 30 Swedish kronor — or about $8. The same week, his father was a runner-up in an international contest to design the Chicago Tribune Tower, and won $20,000.

The tables eventually turned in Eero’s favor, however, creating at least one awkward scene at the Saarinen house. Both father and son — separately — entered the 1948 competition to build a monument for the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial in St. Louis. Per TIME:

The elder Saarinen submitted a formal monumental design; Eero’s entry was an audacious, 590-ft. stainless-steel arch that looked like a giant, glistening croquet wicket—which he had conceived while bending a wire and wool pipe cleaner. A telegram announced Eliel the winner. The family broke out the traditional champagne to celebrate.

Only days later was the secretary’s mistake uncovered: the $40,000 first prize was properly Eero’s.

Read more about Eero Saarinen from 1956, here in the TIME archives: The Maturing Modern

TIME architecture

The World’s Largest Sauna Has Opened In Norway, And It Is Stunning

Photograph by Martin Losvik; Courtesy of salted.no Salt Sauna, Bodø, Norway

It's part of the year-long SALT festival

Do you enjoy sweating and listening to ambient music, but find that it’s difficult to find space large enough for you and 100 of your closest associates to do these things together? Well, you’re in luck.

That’s right, the world’s largest sauna just opened in Norway as part of the year-long SALT festival–a celebration of the architecture and culture of the Arctic. According to Architectural Digest, the sauna, also known as the agora, is a “a massive timber construction set on a beach overlooking the Arctic Ocean.”

The sauna, “which seats up to 150 people, more closely resembles a set of bleachers or an amphitheater than the average boxy sauna,” according to the report. “In fact, when the space is not heated, it will be used as a lecture hall for festival events. And for those who need a respite from the heat, there’s actually a bar inside offering cool libations.”

One-way flights from New York to Oslo start at around $550. You can’t afford not to.


New York’s 30 Rock Just Got a New Name

30 Rock
NBC—NBC via Getty Images 30 Rockefeller Plaza.

Rooftop sign will replace GE's initials

The iconic 30 Rock building will now be known as the Comcast Building.

The new name may not sound as cool, but the building does get a colorful peacock to help illuminate New York’s skyline.

Located at 30 Rockefeller Plaza in Midtown Manhattan, the iconic New York City skyscraper will light up Wednesday evening with its new corporate name.

The rooftop sign will replace General Electric’s initials. Comcast acquired full ownership of General Electric’s NBCUniversal business in 2013.

According to NBC, this will be the third name for the iconic building: It was first known as the RCA building, and later as the GE building.

“I remember when it said RCA up there,” Michael Miscione, Manhattan’s borough president, told NBC. “The fact that they’re bringing GE down is just one step in a many decade evolution of the signage on the building.”

The building reportedly first opened in 1933 and is 70 stories high.

For more on Comcast, check out this in-depth Fortune feature on the company’s management.

TIME architecture

When JFK Airport Was a Shining Beacon of Industrial Design

The New York City airport, called Idlewild until 1963, was a futuristic architectural achievement when it opened several new terminals in the early 1960s

Travelers today might not think of New York City’s John F. Kennedy International Airport as the most impressive travel hub out there. In 2012, Travel and Leisure ranked it one of the nations’s worst airports, and travelers this summer may be in for delays as one of its runways gets a rehaul. But when it was featured in a LIFE photo essay in 1961, the airport—then still called Idlewild after the golf course it displaced—was a shining beacon of modern architecture. As the magazine wrote:

For eight of 11 international travelers presently arriving in New York, the warming symbol of journey’s end no longer is the stately, green copper Statue of Liberty seen from a boat deck, but a glistening complex of low-lying architecture—strongly suggestive of a world’s fair site—seen from the window of an airplane.

The airport had been open since 1948, but it experienced a major growth spurt between 1957 and 1962, when United, American, Pan American, Northwest and TWA all opened new terminals. LIFE praised its innovative meeting of form and function and its well-oiled logistical operation:

Idlewild is more than the handsomest, highest-geared air terminal in operation; it is several terminals, each attuned to the newest advances in the technology of getting people and freight on and off airplanes as fast as possible. Its every feature bespeaks speed and function. Yet, for the disembarking passenger Idlewild offers vivid and lasting impressions of one of America’s most imposing displays of artistic and industrial design.

JFK’s terminals are showing some cracks in their advanced age, but Dmitri Kessel’s images offer a reminder that today’s outmoded dinosaurs are often yesterday’s architectural triumphs.

Liz Ronk, who edited this gallery, is the Photo Editor for LIFE.com. Follow her on Twitter @lizabethronk.

TIME cities

See the First Images of the Last New World Trade Center Tower

Designs for 2 WTC revealed

Architects unveiled the designs for 2 World Trade Center on Tuesday, which will be the last tower built on the site of the World Trade Center.

The new tower, designed by Danish architect Bjarke Ingels (of BIG) and developed by Silverstein Properties, is slated to become the new home of 21st Century Fox and News Corp. The building is specifically designed to “restore the majestic skyline of Manhattan and unite the streetscapes of Tribeca,” Ingels said in a statement. “From TriBeCa, the home of lofts and roof gardens, it will appear like a vertical village of singular buildings stacked on top of each other to create parks and plazas in the sky. From the World Trade Center, the individual towers will appear unified, completing the colonnade of towers framing the 9/11 Memorial. Horizontal meets vertical. Diversity becomes unity.”

2 World Trade Center will be the fourth and last tower built on the site of the World Trade Center buildings destroyed on 9/11.

TIME Companies

Google’s Proposed New Building Looks Like it Belongs on Mars


The plan comes after Google lost a real estate battle with LinkedIn

Following a real estate rejection from the Mountain View, Calif. city council last month, Google has released new plans for a trimmed-down campus extension that would cover nearly 19 acres of land. Called “Charleston East,” the semi-translucent Google extension looks as if it would fit just as well on the surface of Mars as it would in Northern California.

Google was planning a much bigger headquarters expansion, though Mountain View decided to award the majority of the land up for grabs to LinkedIn. Wired notes Google’s new plan isn’t a replacement of the company’s original vision.

TIME architecture

See Majestic Photos of the Chrysler Building Under Construction

The building opened to the public 85 years ago, on May 27, 1930

Not all new skyscrapers make news. But the birth of the Chrysler Building, in 1928, immediately commanded attention, as TIME reported:

Walter Percy Chrysler has just gained the head of the third greatest motor company by the Chrysler-Dodge merger. He is less individualistic than Mr. Ford, yet is mighty proud of his success and reputation. Last week he started selling mortgage bonds (through S. W. Strauss & Co.) on what will be the tallest building—in Manhattan or the world. It will contain 68 stories, and be 808 ft. high. It will, of course, be called the Chrysler Building and is Mr. Chrysler’s personal venture.

The completed building surpassed expectations, measuring 1,046 ft. and change.

“A great gesture towards a fortune built by automobiles is the Chrysler Building,” TIME reported shortly after it officially opened to the public 85 years ago, on May 27, 1930. “Oldtime Manhattanites recalled last week that 50 years ago its site was a goat pasture.”

Its opening ceremony drew the presence of many of New York City’s dignitaries—including Alfred Emanuel Smith, whose corporation was at that very moment constructing the Empire State Building, which would shortly knock the Chrysler from its place of honor.

TIME architecture

This $100-Million Building Looks Exactly Like Star Trek’s Enterprise

NetDragon Websoft

A Chinese technology executive made it so

A Chinese executive who sits on the board of Baidu has constructed an office that pays faithful homage to Star Trek‘s USS Enterprise. The building, which was built by NetDragon Websoft’s 43-year-old founder Liu Dejian, will provide office space for the Chinese game developer. The Wall Street Journal reports the 853-foot-long structure cost 600 million yuan or about $97 million to build.

Construction in the coastal city of Changle in China’s Fujian province reportedly wrapped late last year and began in October 2010. The firm reportedly contacted CBS, the show’s rights holder, to get permission to construct the office. “That was their first time dealing with [an] issue like this and at first they thought that it was a joke,” NetDragon wrote The Wall Street Journal in an email. “They realized somebody in China actually did want to work out a building modeled on the USS Enterprise only after we sent the relevant legal documents.”

The structure looks particularly convincing from the air, as seen here on Google Maps.

TIME On Our Radar

See the World’s Most Impressive Opera Houses

“In the English-speaking world they say ‘Break a leg.’ But in Italy, they say, ‘In bocca al lupo,’ which means, ‘In the wolf’s mouth.’ Because when we singers face the audience from the stage of a traditional, horseshoe-shaped opera house, with its tiers of boxes and galleries, we feel that we could be in the jaws of some gigantic beast with multiple rows of teeth, hoping that it will treat us kindly.”

—Plácido Domingo, from his foreword to “Opera”

The architectural photographer David Leventi probably got a taste of this famous tenor’s words many times in the eight years he spent producing Opera.

For this project, Leventi shot more than 40 opera houses in almost 20 countries, from the tiny (Teatro di Villa Aldrovandi Mazzacorati, capacity: 80) to the mammoth (The Metropolitan Opera, capacity: 3,975). The work is being exhibited at Rick Wester Fine Art (with prints up to seven and a half feet wide) starting May 7 and is being released as a book by Damiani in June 2015.

David, who is the son of two architects, shot his first opera house while researching his family history on a trip to Romania. He is drawn to what he calls “the spectacle of opera. The combining of many art forms: architecture, acoustic design, costumes, stage design, voice, fabric, sound, music, etc.”

While there is always one more opera house he would like to photograph, Leventi selected these spaces “based on their interiors, history, or because they have interesting stories,” he says. “I wanted a mix of both new and old.”

The buildings he found are simply extraordinary. The Palais Garnier in Paris has a Marc Chagall-painted ceiling over 2,500 square feet in size. The Metropolitan Opera in New York used so much twenty-four-karat gold-leaf on the ceiling that a weekly quota had to be imposed during construction to avoid harming other businesses.

“I experience an almost religious feeling walking into a grand space such as an opera house,” says Leventi. And yet from this sumptuousness he creates an ordered typology in a way that links his work to artists such as Bernd and Hilla Becher.

Part of the way Leventi achieves that order is by repeatedly photographing from the stage, looking back out at the audience—just where the singer might stand.

Indeed, that is a key part of the project. David’s Romanian grandfather was an opera singer himself. While a prisoner-of-war in a Soviet camp from 1942-48, he would sing for officers and other detainees. But in the tumultuous years following his release and relocation to Israel, Leventi’s grandfather found his dream slipping beyond reach.

Leventi says “the idea of standing on center stage and being in all these opera houses where he could have performed if there wasn’t the war and all these other circumstances, Communism—I guess you can say I’m living out his dreams.”

David Leventi is a photographer based in New York City.

Myles Little is an associate photo editor at TIME.

TIME Google

See Google’s Absolutely Stunning New Headquarters Design

Google wants to build a new Mountain View campus with sweeping glass structures

Google has unveiled its ambitious new plans for a sprawling, modern Googleplex. The new facility, being developed by architect Bjarke Ingels, features a series of glass, canopies the size of city blocks, new biking and walking paths and an emphasis on green space. Renowned designer Thomas Heatherwick is also involved in the project. Google hopes to complete the first stage of development by 2020, but the company will first have to win approval from Mountain View’s city council amid growing concern over Google’s control over the development of the community.

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