The truth will out: The sinuous legacy of Eero Saarinen and the power of the critic
Melonic, Charles Thomas
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The Finnish-American architect, Eero Saarinen has been enjoying a posthumous revival of interest in his work in the last decade. Saarinen created an astoundingly diverse body of work during the short eleven-year career he had before dying at the age of fifty one of a brain tumor. He also received an equally immense amount of negative criticism during and after his lifetime, and is largely absent from the history books on modern architecture. It became clear that in order to apprehend the problem of Saarinen’s critical derogation, a close study of the publications contemporaneous to his built work was necessary. As Saarinen wrote very little, this also presented a problem as to his true design intentions. Close analysis of his built work as compared and contrasted to both his writing and that of the critics became the method of inquiry to the problem. The results reveal critical biases, hypocrisies, and inconsistencies in some of modern architecture’s most esteemed critics. The revival in critical interest in Saarinen’s work also reveals an identity crisis in contemporary architectural theory, begging further inquisition as to what (if anything) constitutes contemporary theoretical orthodoxy.