The Eero Saarinen Collection is a rich source of documentation about this noted American architect, whose short, prolific career coincided with one of the most economically and culturally expansive decades in American history. Beginning with Saarinen's earliest work at the firm of his father, Eliel Saarinen, and ending with documentation of projects completed after his death, this collection contains information about all of Saarinen's projects, major and minor, built and unbuilt.
The collection consists primarily of drawings and photographs from each of the projects, with scattered amounts of correspondence, product samples, publicity materials, specifications, clippings from period publications, reference materials, and audio-visual materials pertaining to the projects. The collection also contains material pertaining to Saarinen's childhood and personal life, his professional activities, and the administrative and publicity records of his firm, Eero Saarinen and Associates. A small amount of material on the life and work of Eliel Saarinen is also available in this collection.
Little correspondence between Saarinen and his clients or contractors exists in this collection; it was apparently destroyed before the collection was donated to Yale. The two projects in the collection that do have significant amounts of correspondence associated with them are the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial in St. Louis, Missouri and the North Christian Church in Columbus, Indiana. Not all projects in the collection are documented at the same level: for example, the David S. Ingalls Rink at Yale University is documented by only three original drawings, whereas the Trans World Air Lines Terminal [Trans World Flight Center] at John F. Kennedy Airport fills more than 13 tubes of drawings.
Material from all accessions in the Saarinen collection has been merged into one single manuscript group. These materials came into Yale's custody in two main accessions. The first donation came from Aline Saarinen, Eero Saarinen's widow, in 1971. It was deposited in the Art and Architecture Library at Yale, and manuscript material was transferred to Manuscripts and Archives in 1976. This donation consisted primarily of personal materials, childhood and family photographs, audio-visual materials, materials pertaining to Eliel Saarinen, some of Aline Saarinen's personal papers, and early design sketches of various buildings. Additional materials, including watercolor sketches and travel sketchbooks, were transferred to the Yale Art Gallery by the Library in 1976. In 2002, Kevin Roche, the principal of Saarinen's successor firm Kevin Roche John Dinkeloo and Associates, donated all of the job files, publicity materials, drawings, and photographs that had been in the possession of the firm since Saarinen's death in 1961. Processing of these materials began in 2002 and was finished in 2006. Additional materials were donated to the collection by Oliver Lundquist, a former associate of Saarinen's, and by the Bentley Historical Library in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Travel slides belonging to Saarinen that had originally been housed in the Visual Resources Collection at Yale were transferred to Manuscripts and Archives in 2005.
The current arrangement of the collection reflects a re-working of the order in which the materials were received to incorporate the various accessions into one comprehensive scheme. Due to the varying size of the materials in the collection and the need to provide a logical intellectual order within series, box numbers in this collection are non-sequential. Cross-references to oversize boxes are provided when items were divided, or when related material may be found in another box. Further arrangement decisions are noted in the series-level description within the finding aid.
The Eero Saarinen collection saw a great deal of research use prior to its being formally processed at Yale. An in-house researcher at the successor firm arranged the papers, interfiling notes and photocopies of other repositories' holdings. These were removed during processing.
This collection is arranged in five series: Personal Papers, Professional Papers, Office Records, Project Records, and Audio-Visual Materials. The bulk of the collection is contained in the Project records series, which includes drawings, photographs, specifications, and other documentation of the projects that Saarinen and his firm designed. Personal papers contain documentation of Saarinen's childhood and personal relationships, as well as his travels. The Professional papers are distinct from the Office records and the Project records in that they contain information about Saarinen's work outside of the process of designing and constructing buildings. This series includes information about Saarinen's awards, his work on committees and juries, and his writings, as well as some documentation of Eliel Saarinen's work. Office records, like the Professional papers, pertain to the work of the architectural firm aside from designing and constructing buildings. Most of the records in this series are public relations and presentation materials. Some financial records of the firm also exist in this series. The small series of Audio-Visual materials primarily contains films about Saarinen's buildings under construction and sound recordings of Saarinen discussing his architecture.
Material concerning one particular project may be found in several series. For example, an award for the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial and Saarinen's writings about the structure will be found in the Professional papers; publicity photographs of the building and scrapbook entries will be found in the Office records; and drawings, correspondence, construction photographs, and specifications for the monument will be found in the Project records.
Similar types of material may be found across series, such as correspondence, photographs, or biographical material. These types of materials are housed in the series that either original order dictated or in the most appropriate series as determined by the archivist. For example, biographical information about Saarinen will be found in the Personal papers, but biographical sketches of Saarinen are also found in Office records, since these sketches were sent out with promotional materials when the firm was attempting to win a commission.
Other collections in the United States containing material related to Saarinen, his family, and his associates include the Saarinen Family Papers at the Cranbrook Archives in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, and the Aline and Eero Saarinen Papers and the Florence Knoll Bassett Papers in the Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.