Eliel Saarinen

Gottlieb Eliel Saarinen ( born August 20, 1873 in Rantasalmi, Finland, † July 1, 1950 in Bloomfield Hills, United States) was a Finnish architect and city planner who was mainly known for its Art Nouveau works. He is an important representative of Finnish architecture. Also his son Eero Saarinen (1910-1961) gained great fame as an architect.

Life and work

Early work

Saarinen studied from 1893 to 1897 architecture and painting at the University of Technology (now Aalto University ) in Helsinki. During his studies he met his future partner Herman Gesellius and Armas Lindgren, with which he opened the joint architectural office Gesellius, Lindgren and Saarinen. Saarinen's first job in the company was the design for the Finnish Pavilion at the World Exhibition in Paris in 1900. His design was a mixture of Finnish wood architecture, a British neo-Gothic and art nouveau elements. The style influenced significantly the National Romanticism, which will culminate in the building of the main railway station of Helsinki. In 1904 he designed the building was built in the years 1910 until 1914. On March 6, 1904 Saarinen married the sculptor Minna Carolina Mathilda Louise ( Loja ) Gesellius from Helsinki. Saarinen worked from 1896 to 1907 for the architectural firm. Two years earlier, Lindgren was eliminated when he was director of the School of Architecture of the Technical University.

From 1910 to 1915 Saarinen worked mainly in the extensive urban development project Munksnäs - Haga, a city district of Helsinki. The project, however, was not fully realized due to high costs. His experience in this work he later published in a book. In January 1911 he became a consultant for the city planning of the Estonian city of Tallinn and was also invited to advise the city of Budapest in its development. In 1912 he came second, behind Walter Burley Griffin and before Donat- Alfred Agache the design competition for the new Australian capital Canberra. In April 1913, he received first prize in an international competition for its planning for Reval. In the years 1917 and 1918 he worked at the town planning of the Helsinki Metropolitan Area. The design of the Finnish markka banknotes introduced in 1922 comes from Eliel Saarinen.

Moving to the United States

Eliel Saarinen emigrated in 1923 to the United States shortly after he was defeated in an architecture competition for the Tribune Tower in Chicago. Although he was awarded second place, his design was realized by the construction of the Gulf Building in Houston in 1929. Saarinen first lived in Evanston, where he worked on the development of the waterfront of Chicago. In 1924, he worked as a visiting professor at the University of Michigan.

In 1925, George Gough Booth asked him if he wanted to make the campus of Cranbrook Educational Community in the style of Bauhaus. Saarinen became a lecturer at the Cranbrook Academy of Art, and elected in 1932 to her head. His students included Ray Eames and Charles Eames, whose furniture design he had a substantial impact. The architect and city planner Edmund Bacon was one of his students. Later, Saarinen Professor at the University of Michigan. Nowadays, a chair at the A. Alfred Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning is named in his honor. Since the mid- 1930s, Eliel Saarinen also collaborated with his son Eero. At their joint work includes, for example, the Kleinhans Music Hall in Buffalo.

Eliel Saarinen had with his wife Loja (1879-1968) in addition to the son Eero daughter Eva -Lisa ( Pipsan ).

Structures ( selection)


The Finnish postal tribute Saarinen Eliel Saarinen to his 100th birthday in 1973 with a special stamp. Saarinen was awarded honorary doctorates from the Universities of Helsinki, Helsinki University of Technology and the Universities of Karlsruhe, Michigan, Harvard and Iowa. The Finnish Architecture Museum opened in 1956 founded his collection in part to the estate of Eliel Saarinen's writings and records which had his wife Loja in 1952 donated to the Finnish Architectural Association.


  • The search for form in art and architecture, Dover Publications, New York 1985, ISBN 978-0486249070. (Reprint )