Five of Eero Saarinen’s Most Popular Contributions to American Architecture

Image of St. Louis downtown with Gateway Arch at twilight.

Eero Saarinen was a Finish-American born in 1910 who became a well-acclaimed architect known for his works largely defined by their organic shapes, unique scaling, and innovate design. 

Gateway Arch

One of his most recognizable works is the Gateway arch in St. Louis, Missouri. The 630 foot tall form is crafted with steel-clad concrete in triangular pieces and is still the world’s largest standing arch today. Saarinen began the design as a testament to American citizens and to celebrate their pioneer spirit. It’s now considered a National Historic Landmark and is a common tourist spot for anyone passing through the state.  

TWA Flight Center 

Saarinen also dedicated himself to the monumental project of designing the TWA terminal in the JFK Airport in New York. The construction is supposed to remind viewers of the beauty of flight with its arched lines and wing-like roofing.

It is no longer used as a typical airport terminal. However, this beautiful space is rumored to be reimagined as a hotel for travelers in the future. 

MIT Chapel

Another must-see work by Saarinen is his Chapel at MIT in Massachusetts. Finished in 1955, it is still considered one of his most beloved works and one of the most profound architectural designs of his time. 

The church immediately brings a sense of other-worldliness. The cyclical exterior gives only a hint of the mystical feeling the interior provides. Inside you’ll find a circular skylight that beams down onto the contemporary altar. The walls are built with traditional brick, but in a wave pattern that instantly awakens a sense of the mystical and binds the new and old into one.  

General Motors Technical Center

Saarinen was also chosen to design unique and inspiring buildings for well-known companies like IBM and General Motors. He chose to make the exterior of the General Motors Technical Center veiled in glass at a scale that was highly unusual for the time, but is now copied by many enterprises today. 

The interior has his trademark elegance with a large circular light that gives a calming yet futuristic atmosphere, even today. 

Dulles Int’l Airport

Inspired by the graceful movements of planes, Saarinen crafted another elegant terminal entrance at the Dulles International Airport in Virginia. The large curved slopes on the roof’s paneling and huge panes of glass give a sense the true magic of air travel many have now gotten used to. 

Interior Design

You can also see this type of novelty in his famous interior design works as well, like the Tulip Table and Womb Chair. The Extendable Tulip Dining Table was first introduced in 1958 by the request of Florence Knoll. Saarinen set out to get rid of the typical table legs that sometimes have a chaotic look. He decided to craft this contemporary piece to give the modern dining table a sleeker, more unified look. 

The Eero Saarinen Womb Chair is one of his most iconic pieces. Originally designed in the 1940s, this chair instantly began to fill the homes of many around the world. It was created to evoke how Saarinen thought people should sit for ultimate comfort and elegance. Owning any of Saarinen’s works in the home always gives an instant feeling of refinement and magic.