Insights of the Steel Temple.

Eero Saarinen—John Deere headquarters

Finnish-American architect Eero Saarinen remains one of the most heralded, inventive artists of the 20th century. For example, when William Hewitt, below, CEO of the John Deere tractor company, hired the bespectacled builder in 1956 to fashion their Moline IL world headquarters,

John Deere’s Hewitt (l) and Eero Saarinen (r)Hewitt emphasized that, while he wanted a headquarters that was unique, it must reflect the character of the company and its employees. “The several buildings should be thoroughly modern in concept but should not give the effect of being especially sophisticated or glossy. Instead, they should be more ‘down to earth’ and rugged,” he wrote. …

Saarinen satisfied Hewitt’s instruction that the buildings look down to earth by using Cor-ten steel for the exterior structure of the building. Cor-ten®, a material that resists corrosion by forming a protective coating of iron oxide, develops an earthy color as it ages, much like newly plowed soil. Developed for railroad track construction and other uses, this marked the first use of Cor-ten® in an architectural application.

The results, above, completed in 1964, three years after Saarinen’s death, were so imaginative they moved one critic to note that, having made something apt and fit for a farm equipment manufacturer, Saarinen had also created a site whose “strong yet artfully detailed lines bear a curious resemblance to Japanese temple architecture.”

Working almost continuously with Saarinen, photographer Balthazar Korab documented every aspect of the great man’s creative process. Over 800 of his images form the massive backbone of a new book, Eero Saarinen: Buildings From The Balthazar Korab Archive, edited by David G. DeLong and C. Ford Peatross.

C. Ford Peatross, a curator with the Library of Congress, is the guest today on my WBAI-NY / 99.5 FM radio show, NONFICTION, this afternoon, Friday, November 14, at 2 pm ET.

Not only did Korab richly, beautifully record Saarinen’s work, argues Peatross—the lush book represents less than 10% of the photog’s archives—but Korab’s proficiency captured the earliest moments of Saarinen’s elusive method, enabling him to look more profoundly into his own deep thinking.

You can hear this original scholar’s ideas by tuning in at 2 pm. If you’re outside of the New York tri-state, you can check out our stream on the web. If you miss the live show, check out our archive for up to two weeks after broadcast.


1 comment so far ↓

#1 Marvin Chance on 04.14.11 at 11:04 am

The rusted color of the building reminds me of my old skid steer’s trough, and I mean that in a good way. In the morning light, the the brown pops with the colored sky. I’d love to go see this building in person, it’s beautiful.

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