Eero Saarinen's 100th Birthday Celebration

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Date: August 11, 2010
Contact: Julie Northrip, 314-655-1615

During the day and before the panel discussion, visitors will be invited to construct their own 8’ tall arch with arch building blocks in the lobby of the museum. Children can explore architect’s tools and design their own memorial for the park grounds.They will also have the opportunity to create and frame their own modern masterpiece with a hands-on craft activity.

The evening panel discussion will include:

  • Susan Saarinen, on her father's life, work and legacy
  • Bob Moore and Jennifer Clark on the preservation of competition boards from the 1947-1948 Competition.
  • Harry Richman, architect, on his service as an architectural student to the 1947-1948 Competition jury.
  • Bruce Detmers, on being the project manager for the Saarinen office (Roche/Dinkeloo) during the Arch construction.


Eero Saarinen's 100th Birthday Party

On Friday, August 20, 2010, Jefferson National Expansion Memorial will commemorate the 100th anniversary of the birth of architect Eero Saarinen, designer of the Gateway Arch and many of the world's most distinctive structures.The event, co-sponsored by the St. Louis chapter of the American Institute of Architects, will be fun, educational, and have something of interest for everyone.

From 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., we will have hands-on activities for kids and a birthday cake, while from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m., a special program will feature speakers familiar with Saarinen's life and work, including the architect's daughter, Susan.The five final designs for the current international design competition will be on display in the Arch Visitor Center, during the open public comment period, so this will also be an opportunity for attendees to assess plans for the future improvement of the memorial.In addition, the Gateway Arch is open until 10 p.m., with tram rides available until 9:10 p.m., which will provide an opportunity for attendees to ride to the top and see the lights of the city at night from the city's tallest and most famous structure.

The midday program will include the ability to build your own Arch out of large foam building blocks.Volunteers from the American Institute of Architects will explain the use of drafting tables and architectural tools, and also assist kids in drawing memorial concepts of their own using crayons on facsimiles of the 1947 memorial competition booklet.Park rangers will assist with other hands-on activities, and birthday cake will be available.

The evening program will be held in the Tucker Theater within the Arch complex and will feature a series of four talks, followed by a period for questions from the audience.

The program will include four talks:

Park archivist Jennifer Clark and park historian Bob Moore will present a powerpoint program discussing and displaying some of the recently-conserved entry boards from the 1947 memorial competition, highlighting some of the better-known architects who entered and some of the more interesting ideas that lost, while also featuring some close-up looks at Eero Saarinen's original drawings.

Harry Richman of St. Louis, who was a young architecture student at Washington University in 1947 and had the job of opening the crates of all the 172 entries and arranging them on easels for the jury, will give a short account of his experiences. He is the last surviving person who was witness to the 1947 competition and overheard some of the deliberations.

Bruce Detmers, project manager of the Arch project during construction for the Saarinen office, will discuss what it was like to work for Eero Saarinen and some of the problems encountered in the construction of the Arch.

Susan Saarinen, who has her own landscape architecture practice in Colorado, will describe growing up in a famous family of architects and artists, and the path that led her to research, write and speak about her father's work and legacy.

We are excited at the possibilities of this event, and we invite the St. Louis community to celebrate this man, his dream and the best known icon of our city.

Last updated: July 19, 2019

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