Mid-Century Corporate Glamour


Before visiting the National Building Museum's exhibit, "Eero Saarinen: Shaping the Future," which runs through Sunday, August 23, I had thought of Saarinen as the designer of such icons of optimistic, swoopy modernism as the TWA Terminal (pictured here), St. Louis Arch, and tulip chair. I was ignorant, but not unusual.

What's been largely forgotten by the non-expert public is that Saarinen's future-shaping architecture included the design of many corporate research campuses, including those for Bell Labs, IBM, and GM. These facilities were just as forward-looking and glamorous in their day as any airport. "Coming to work at the Tech Center was like stepping into the future," Wayne Cherry, GM's vp for design, told Metropolis magazine in 2003. (Great slideshow here.) In December 1955, Architecture Forum called Saarinen's GM Technical Center "nothing less than the Industrial Versailles--the nerve center, the capitol of an empire whose corporate directors and managers believe in what GM stands for and what it does even more firmly than Louis XIV ever believed he was divine, and have declared themselves (as he did) in the way they built."

Click here, or on the photo above, for examples of Saarinen's work from the National Building Museum exhibit.

This 2004 Boston Globe article heralded Saarinen's return to popularity among architects and scholars.