Eero Saarinen Papers Donated to Yale Library

The architectural firm Kevin Roche John Dinkeloo and Associates has donated its Eero Saarinen papers to the Manuscripts and Archives division of the Yale University Library.

“We are delighted that it is now possible to transfer these important archives to Yale University,” said Kevin Roche, a principal of the firm. “It is what Eero would have wished.”

Saarinen (1910-1961) was one of the most influential architects of the 20th century. Born in Kirkkonummi, Finland, Saarinen emigrated to the United States with his family in 1923. He studied architecture and received a bachelor’s degree in fine arts from Yale University in 1934 and shortly thereafter went into practice with his father, the architect Eliel Saarinen, where he remained until his father’s death in 1950.

He later founded his own firm, Eero Saarinen and Associates, during which time he produced his best-known buildings, including the General Motors Technical Center in Warren, Michigan; the U.S. Embassy on Grosvenor Square, London; the Bell Laboratories in Holmdel, New Jersey; the Trans World Airways Terminal at John F. Kennedy Airport in New York; the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial (Gateway Arch) in St. Louis, Missouri; the Terminal Building at Dulles International Airport; and the CBS Headquarters in New York. In addition to his renown as an architect of buildings and monuments, Saarinen is celebrated as a designer of furniture. His “Womb Chair” (1947) and “Tulip Chair” (1956) have become icons of mid-century design.

Two other significant Saarinen structures are on the Yale University campus: the Ezra Stiles and Samuel F. B. Morse residential college complex and the David S. Ingalls Hockey Rink.

“Eero Saarinen was the most artistically adventurous architect of his generation,” noted Robert A.M. Stern, dean of the School of Architecture. “He combined great personal talent with an ability to assemble a brilliant office of young collaborators including Kevin Roche, Cesar Pelli, Gunnar Birkerts, Robert Venturi and Charles Eames. Almost uniquely among architects of his generation, Saarinen built for major corporations as well as the federal government and institutions of higher learning including Yale, M.I.T., University of Pennsylvania and University of Chicago. Not only a brilliant designer, he was also a technological innovator whose pioneer work with glass curtain walls, controlled rusting steel and reinforced concrete permanently influenced how we build.”

As Saarinen’s successor firm, Roche Dinkeloo has maintained the primary body of his drawings, photographs, project files, scrapbooks and other materials in their offices in Hamden since Saarinen’s death. Manuscripts and Archives already holds a substantial amount of Saarinen’s papers and records-given to the library by Saarinen’s wife, Aline, in 1971-according to Richard Szary, director of Manuscripts and Archives. With the addition of this donation, which includes more than 600 tubes of drawings, nine file drawers of project specifications, and several boxes of personal files and photographs, the Saarinen papers at Yale will become the largest and most comprehensive collection of his papers at any repository.

“The Eero Saarinen papers donated to the Library by Roche Dinkeloo and Associates will provide architectural history students and scholars with a major resource for understanding the work of this important Yale-trained architect,” said Szary. “The gift…also represents a major step forward in our work to assemble a comprehensive archives documenting the increasingly significant accomplishments and influence of the many architects who have studied or taught at Yale.”

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