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Leoh Ming Pei & Eero Saarinen Essay

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    The architects that I am comparing came from two different parts of the world and yet, in some ways the messages behind their work and the incorporation of engineering, geometrical and sculptural elements into their designs and their new identity as “Americans” brings them closer together. Leoh Ming Pei was born in Canton, China in 1917 and came to the United States for his further education. Because of his fathers influence on him, who always encouraged Pei in designing, he attended MIT and it was finally in Harvard that he got his architectural degree.

    Being brought up in a different culture also had an impact in his design for his approach towards it was different from most of his American classmates whose approaches towards design were mostly very traditional. At Harvard, Le Corbussier’s “Expressive Modernism” influenced him in his use of simple geometric shapes and forms. Gropius also had a great deal of influence on Pei for he developed a reliance on abstract form and materials such as stone, concrete, glass and steel and later developed his own approach to design in which he exhibits interest in the Avant Garde.

    My next architect is 1910- 1961 who was born in Finland, a son of an architect father and a sculptor and architectural model-maker mother. His parents’ professions influenced him very much into being an architect and he enrolled in Cranbrok Institute of Architecture and also Yale University after his family moved to the United States. He also went to Europe for a year to study sculpture and over there, he was greatly influenced by the sculptors there of that time and this sculptural influence is seen in almost every one of his designs.

    Like Pei, he was also a first generation American and having being brought up in a different country also had a great impact on the way he looked at design and his concepts towards it. After he finished his architectural degree, he developed a theory of treating architecture as sculpture, an engineering monument and three-dimensional geometry. I have to say Pei’s Grand Louvre Pyramid In France and Saarinen’s TWA terminal in New York have both been figures of splendor, admiration, and equally– controversy.

    Both structures have sculptural and engineering elements in them and both incorporate modern materials into their design. Even the concepts as to why they look the way they are just as intriguing. The pyramid, which is mostly glass and steel, was designed to emancipate the old baroque Louvre from the congestion it was facing and also to celebrate and to give air, space and light to the it whereas the TWA terminal, which is mostly molded sweepingly curved concrete was conceived to celebrate the gracious era of commercial flight.

    Both the pieces of work ignited controversy when they were first built because critics said the pyramid acted like a “glass iceberg” and competed with and shattered the beauty of the old museum. Critics also said that while Saarinen’s TWA terminal’s layout and equipment were technically advanced and carefully thought-out, its form was arbitrarily sculptural rather than structurally coherent.

    And like the pyramid, critics said, the terminal did not go well with the site, surrounding buildings and structures. Most of the works of these architects, critics may agree, can be interpreted as a fodder for controversy. Perhaps behind their distinctive designs, controversy was their intentions after all, many artists/ architects throughout the ages have shown that controversy is the greatest way to achieve recognition and to bring about change.

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    Leoh Ming Pei & Eero Saarinen Essay. (2018, May 07). Retrieved from https://artscolumbia.org/leoh-ming-pei-eero-saarinen-46714/

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