Yale receives Eero Saarinen papers

Yale is home to three of Eero Saarinen’s famous buildings, the David S. Ingalls Rink — also known as the “Yale Whale” — and Morse and Ezra Stiles colleges. The University is now also home to the drawings behind Saarinen’s works.

The University recently acquired more than 600 of Saarinen’s drawings from Kevin Roche John Dinkeloo & Associates, the successor to Saarinen’s architecture firm. The papers will be maintained by the Arts Library and available for students and faculty members to study, said Katherine Haskins, director of the Arts Library.

“We’re of course extremely pleased to have them, and we are very grateful to the efforts on the part of the Yale library staff and Roche and Dinkeloo’s efforts as well,” Haskins said.

This donation will amend the lack of material about Saarinen that was previously available, said Robert Stern, dean of the School of Architecture.

“These drawings and other materials will be available for scholars to interpret and therefore lead to the production of books,” Stern said. “It’s very sad that there’s been almost no scholarly work on Saarinen’s career since his death in 1961 given what an important architect he is — it needs to be available to a large audience.”

The University already has some of Saarinen’s work, including sketches, photographs, correspondences and materials related to his father, architect Eliel Saarinen, Manuscripts and Archives Director Richard Szary said in an e-mail.

Haskins said at least one professor plans to use Saarinen’s work for his classes. Mark Gage will use the archives to teach the history of architectural drawing and how the drawings have changed over time, Haskins said.

“[It's] an incomparable opportunity to study the working processes of a leading architect,” Haskins said. “That’s unique and important part of architecture training. We will now have everything in one place.”

The acquisition of Saarinen’s papers is part of an ongoing project between the Arts Library, Manuscripts and Archives and the School of Architecture to preserve artifacts relating to to Yale architects and architecture, Szary said.

Saarinen was an eminent architect in the second half to the 20th century, and produced many well-known, distinctive works. His buildings include the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial in St. Louis and the TWA Terminal at John F. Kennedy Airport in New York.

He studied fine arts at Yale in 1934 after arriving in America from Finland in 1923. He then joined his father’s firm until Eliel’s death in 1950, after which he founded his own firm, Eero Saarinen and Associates.

Roche Dinkeloo and Associates is the successor firm to Saarinen’s, and have been in possession of the architect’s drawings, files and photos, among other artifacts, since his death in 1961.

“Saarinen’s work does have a great influence on the work of younger architects and the experiments he carried out in the ’50s are important today,” Stern said.

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