AbstractsPhilosophy & Theology

Laboratory for a New Architecture: Airport Terminal, Eero Saarinen and the Historiography of Modern Architecture

by Susanna Santala

Institution: University of Helsinki
Department: Department of Philosophy, History, Culture and Art Studies, Art history
Year: 2015
Keywords: taidehistoria
Record ID: 1145195
Full text PDF: http://hdl.handle.net/10138/154203


In this historiographical study I evaluate the placement of Eero Saarinen s airport terminals in the history of modern architecture. His Trans World Airlines Terminal (1956-62) and Dulles International Airport (1958-63) were the first airport terminals to enter the annals of modern architecture. I hypothesize that the airport terminal was previously excluded as a building type from historiography since it was seen as infrastructure, not architecture. Furthermore, its modernity did not coincide with the aims of historians, who could not utilize an emergent building type to demonstrate how modernism revolutionized architectural vocabularies. Discussing the related histories of aviation and technologies, the typological instability of the airport terminal, and Saarinen s architectural practice, I utilize genealogy, microhistory, and Science and Technology Studies to intervene in the historiography of modern architecture. Specifically, I question the assumption that architecture follows technological developments, the narrow interpretation of modernity dominating the writing of architectural history, and the resulting myopia in the classification of emerging building types. I view Saarinen s architectural practice as one of the many laboratories for a new architecture. Mapping such laboratories reveals a multifaceted view of postwar architecture, where modernism is explained by individual actors laboring at their localized sites to mediate a particular kind of modernity. I argue that Saarinen s engagement with technology and his laboratory-like working methods reconciled the contradictions between modern architecture and its blind spot, the airport terminal. This synthesis allowed the terminal building to transcend its utilitarian-technological nature as transportation infrastructure and led to its inclusion in the history of modern architecture as a building type that has its own history and parameters for design. This study makes three contributions. It outlines the history of the airport terminal emphasizing buildings that could have easily found their place in the canon of modern architecture. It explains the reasons for their exclusion and suggests ways to reduce the canon s myopia towards variants of modernism. More broadly, this study contributes to our understanding of the historiography of modern architecture and its logic of including emergent buildings by acknowledging the airport terminal as an emblematic building type of the twentieth century. Susanna Santalan väitöskirja tarkastelee Eero Saarisen suunnittelemia lentokenttäterminaaleja suhteessa modernin arkkitehtuurin historiankirjoitukseen. Tutkimuksen lähtökohtana on havainto siitä, ettei lentokenttäterminaalia mainita modernin arkkitehtuurin historioissa, vaikka se tyypillisenä 1900-luvun uutena rakennustyyppinä kehittyi samaan aikaan kun moderni arkkitehtuuri institutionalisoitiin. Saarisen Trans World Airlines terminaali (1956-62) ja Dullesin kansainvälinen lentokenttä (1958-63) olivat ensimmäiset modernin arkkitehtuurin historiankirjoituksessa…