Presentation on theme: "Eliel Saarinen in the United States A Scandinavian Designer Builds a School."— Presentation transcript:
Eliel Saarinen in the United States A Scandinavian Designer Builds a School
As second place winner in the 1922 international Chicago Tribune competition, Finnish architect Eliel Saarinen was catapulted into the company of the most important designers in the western world. His design for the tower evidenced a far better grasp on the essence of the early 20th-century skyscraper than most of the American architects who entered. His unique formal solution appealed to the selection committee but was by-passed for the apparently safer design in Gothic Revival mode by Hood & Howells.
With his prize money, Saarinen came to Chicago in 1923 and began work on a project for the Lakefront that would have put a similar but much larger tower in a complex of buildings in Jackson Park. Although neither tower was realized, the impact of the design on the imaginations of American architects was enormous and far greater than the first-prize entry in the Tribune competition.
Vehicular and pedestrian traffic circulation proposal for Lakefront project, c. 1923
In the fall of 1923, Eliel Saarinen and his wife Loja, a weaver, settled in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and Eliel joined the faculty of the School of Architecture at the University of Michigan. He became involved in public projects for the city of Flint and the city of Detroit, neither of which were built. However, George Booth, the son of a wealthy newspaper magnate in Detroit and an architecture student at the University of Michigan, invited Saarinen to the family home in Bloomfield Hills. The Booth family had long been active in the Arts and Crafts Society in Detroit and were eager to found an art academy that would promote the crafts as well as the more conventional arts in a collaborative venture. The family recognized in Eliel and Loja Saarinen the perfect artisans to build the school both pedagogically and architecturally. This project became the landmark artistic achievement of Saarinen’s career.
The Cranbrook School for Boys had already been planned as a school to train boys who would sing in an English style choir of men and boys at nearby Christ Church Episcopal in Bloomfield Hills. The Cranbrook Foundation quickly expanded the school for boys to include the Art Academy in 1925. By 1928, Kingswood School for Girls had been founded, in 1931 the Cranbrook Institute of Sciences, and in 1940-43 the Cranbrook Museum and Library. The Art Academy was organized with a series of master crafts artisans, beginning with Eliel Saarinen (architecture) and Loja Saarinen (weaving and fibre arts). They added the Swedish Carl Milles (sculpture) and a group of others who practiced in such areas as ceramics, graphic design,painting, and photography. The concept of the Cranbrook Academy was the interaction of the arts and their respectful acknowledgement of each other’s qualities.
The site for the new school and academy was the Booth farm in the Detroit suburb of Bloomfield Hills, a rolling acreage as seen in the photograph above.
Through careful landscape planning and cultivation, the open land of the farm was slowly transformed into an idyllic woods with meadows and lakes as well as an architectural character.
The original concept for the school was to convert the existing farm buildings into the school with an adaptive reuse strategy. When it became clear that the old farm buildings were structurally and formally inadequate, Saarinen retained their general massing and rebuilt them in new materials, principally brick and stone with fine detailing throughout.
As with the Tribune Tower design, Saarinen’s work leaves an initial impression of historical or revival architecture. This impression fades as one inspects the details and discovers how unique and original they are. Dining Hall view in pencil Tribune Tower Detail in pencil