Documentary filmmaker Peter Rosen studied architecture in college, but he says he wasn't taught anything about Eero Saarinen.
The Finnish-American architect designed some of America’s most futuristic, innovative structures during the late 1940s and 1950s, but Rosen says his work is only beginning to receive the attention and study it deserves.
Rosen's new documentary about the architect, called "Eero Saarinen: The Architect Who Saw The Future," will be shown on PBS in December 2016, and will be part of the New York Architecture and Design Film Festival at the end of September.
The film follows Saarinen’s son, Eric, as he visits some of his father’s most iconic works, each of which is remarkably distinct.
“Every one of these things looks like it's by a different architect," Rosen tells Business Insider of his interest in Saarinen, explaining that documentaries about most other architects would be boring since their styles repeat. "The next building never had anything to do with any innovations, discoveries or breakthroughs they made in the previous building."
Take a look at some of Saarinen's most impressive work.
Gateway Arch, St. Louis, Missouri
“I think the arch in St. Louis is this really mystical thing,” Rosen says. “When Eric and I saw it, he said, ‘That can’t be real — that looks like it’s from another planet.’ That’s the sort of the feeling you get in some of the Saarinen works, that they are really from some other place."
Both Eero Saarinen and his father, Eliel, who was also a well-known architect, submitted proposals to the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial design competition. Eliel’s design didn't even make it to the final 10.
In Rosen's documentary, the footage of the arch was captured using a high-quality drone, which allowed the team to get shots from above that Rosen believes have never been captured before in the same manner.
MIT chapel, Cambridge, Massachusetts
Eric Saarinen, who is also the director of photography for the project, was estranged from his father, who left the family to marry another woman. The documentary is both a visual exploration of Eero Saarinen’s career and a glimpse into the architect’s personal life.
In the film, the team visits MIT’s nondenominational chapel, which Saarinen completed in 1955. Natural light flows from a circular skylight, sending a bright beam onto the altar. A sculpture by Harry Bertoia now hangs from that opening, creating a cascade of reflecting light.
Though the exterior of the chapel is smooth and round, the walls inside undulate in a wave-like pattern. Rather than following a specific religious tradition, the space encourages silent reflection.
Dulles International Airport, Dulles, Virginia
Rosen said he found one of the most striking things about Saarinen’s work to be the contrast between the scales of his various works. One of his largest designs was for Dulles Airport, where he created a massive, open terminal the length of three football fields.
“The impact would be this huge difference between one of the largest interiors I’ve ever seen and the really intimate scale of the chapel at MIT,” he says of his own takeaways from the film.
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