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This year marks the 150th anniversary of the birth of a Finnish-American architect Eliel Saarinen (1873–1950). Saarinen’s early career in Finland essentially shaped the country’s national architectural identity and the capital Helsinki’s architectural landscape through a number of landmark buildings. He moved to the United States in 1923 to become a leading figure in American architecture culture. Saarinen’s notable works in the U.S. include the Cranbrook Educational Community in Michigan and the First Christian Church in Columbus, Indiana. He played also a pivotal role as an educator and as an author of two seminal books Search for Form and The City: Its Growth, Its Decay, Its Future. Saarinen passed away in 1950, leaving behind a legacy continued by his son, Eero Saarinen, who established himself as a luminary in the world of modern architecture.

This panel, organized by The Consulate General of Finland in New York, brings together three notable Saarinen scholars to reflect on Saarinen’s legacy in the most prominent locations in his lifetime: Helsinki, Finland, Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, and Columbus, Indiana. The talk explores connections between Eliel Saarinen and his interpretations of Art Nouveau to express Finnish identity outside Swedish and Russian imperialism, and eventually Eero Saarinen and his proteges’ works in the later 20th century in the expression of American democracy.

Kevin Adkisson,
Curator, Cranbrook Center for Collections and Research
Eeva-Liisa Pelkonen, Assistant Dean and Professor, Yale School of Architecture
Matt Shaw, Writer

About the Speakers:
Kevin Adkisson is the curator for Cranbrook Center for Collections and Research where he takes a leading role in the preservation, documentation, and interpretation of Cranbrook’s National Historic Landmark campus and its treasures, including the work of Eliel and Loja Saarinen.

Eeva-Liisa Pelkonen is assistant dean and professor at the Yale University School of Architecture. Her many books include Alvar Aalto: Architecture, Modernity, and Geopolitics; Eero Saarinen: Shaping the Future; and Untimely Moderns: How 20th Century Architecture Reimagined the Past.

Matt Shaw is a New York–based author, editor, and columnist who writes for publications such as New York Times, The Guardian, Spike Art Magazine and e-flux. His forthcoming book with Iwan Baan about Columbus, Indiana will be published by Monacelli Press in 2024.

Organized by
Consulate General of Finland
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