Docomomo US/MN Presents “Eero Saarinen: The Architect Who Saw the Future” at Minneapolis masterpiece Christ Church Lutheran

Christ Lutheran Church, Minneapolis

The lounge is furnished with the original midcentury modern décor, inviting weary souls to sit and bask in the beauty of midcentury design. But it’s Christ Church Lutheran’s soaring sanctuary, designed by Eliel Saarinen, that draws the most attention. Saarinen’s use of light, brick, stone, concrete, and wood resulted in a space of stunning simplicity and tranquility. Since its construction in 1949, the church has fascinated architects, photographers, students, and those seeking a place of worship, community, beauty, and solace.

Eliel’s son Eero was no slouch, either. He designed the church’s education wing in 1962 and is the focus of the documentary film Eero Saarinen: The Architect Who Saw the Future. On Tuesday, April 24, Docomomo MN will screen the film at Christ Church Lutheran. Eero is perhaps best known for designing such National Historic Landmarks as St. Louis’ iconic Gateway Arch, New York’s TWA Flight Center at John F. Kennedy International Airport and—last but not least—modernist pedestal furniture like the Tulip chair.

Saarinen’s Tulip chairs and table for Knoll

The Tulip chair, actually, brought Eero his first critical recognition. While still working for his father, Eero designed the chair with Charles Eames for the “Organic Design in Home Furnishings” competition in 1940. They received first prize. The “Tulip Chair,” like all other Saarinen chairs, was taken into production by the Knoll furniture company, founded by Hans Knoll, who married Saarinen family friend Florence (Schust) Knoll. During his long association with Knoll, Eero designed many important pieces of furniture including the “Grasshopper” lounge chair and ottoman (1946), the “Womb” chair and ottoman (1948), the “Womb” settee (1950), side and arm chairs (1948–1950), and his most famous “Tulip” or “Pedestal” group (1956), which featured side and arm chairs, dining, coffee, and side tables, as well as a stool. Many are still available from Knoll and Design Within Reach.

Saarinen’s Womb chair and ottoman for Knoll

Saarinen's Womb chair and ottoman for Knoll

The documentary about Eero was co-produced by director of photography Eric Saarinen, Eero’s son. The film explores the life and visionary work of the Finnish-American modernist architect. Eric visits the sites of his father’s work on a cathartic journey using drone technology that showcases the architecture. The documentary also features rare archival interviews with Eero and his second wife, The New York Times art critic Aline Saarinen, as well as letters and quotations from Aline’s memoirs voiced respectively by Peter Franzén and Blythe Danner.

The event begins at 6:00 p.m. with a reception in the church’s lounge, followed by the film presentation at 6:45 in the gymnasium. After the film, attendees are invited to join in a discussion about the Saarinens and their design legacy. Free admission, but RSVP requested.

Docomomo—which stands for the DOcumentation and COnservation of buildings, sites, and neighborhoods of the MOdern MOvement—is certainly memorable. So are its programs. The Minnesota Chapter of Docomomo was founded in 2010 to extend the national organization’s work in promoting the study, interpretation, and protection of the architecture, landscape, and urban design of the Modern Movement. Throughout the year, the Minnesota Chapter provides access to films, speakers and parties that spread the love of midcentury modernism.


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