The design for a rink on the Yale University campus. (Photo: Librado Romero/The New York Times)

The architect Eero Saarinen was often knocked for being the equivalent of a talented P.R. man. And on the surface at least, few architects did more to glamorize postwar corporate America. General Motors, I.B.M., CBS — all eventually came knocking at his door. His architecture offered them the veneer of a supremely confident, progressive America, with all the roughness smoothed away. It made it easier to forget about those Soviet warheads and mushroom clouds.

The curves and glossy surfaces are as seductive as ever in “Eero Saarinen: Shaping the Future,” which opened at the Museum of the City of New York on Tuesday. But the story it tells is more conflicted.

Organized by Donald Albrecht, the museum’s curator of architecture and design, the show carefully peels back some of the gloss to reveal the anxieties and contradictions buried underneath. As Saarinen tinkers with his symbolic language, he also mines deeper architectural veins. Eventually even the hardened skeptic is forced to accept that his buildings can be both sophisticated works of propaganda and gorgeous — and humane — architectural creations.


Nicolai Ouroussoff
New York Times