Eliel Saarinen exhibition in Iwaki

Facebook / Twitter

Eliel Saarinen and His Beautiful Architecture in Finland

Finland is renowned for its beautiful forests and lakes. It is also home to Finnish modernism, an architectural style that is also popular in Japan. One major figure who helped develop the style was Eliel Saarinen (1873–1950). Saarinen founded an architectural firm with university friends Herman Gesellius and Armas Lindgren. One of his first jobs at the firm, designing the Finnish pavilion at the 1900 Paris World Fair, won him considerable praise. Initially, Saarinen worked in a style that was dubbed National Romantic, which while influenced by art nouveau was more focused on expressing the country’s traditional cultures. The nationalist ethos behind this style struck a chord with the people of Finland at a time when they were seeking independence from Russia.

Saarinen and his partners eventually built Hvitträsk, a complex designed to be a cross-genre work of art presenting an ideal lifestyle: living quietly in nature inside a home that also served as a venue for social functions with other artists. Saarinen gradually expanded his work into residences, commercial buildings, public buildings, train stations, and urban design. Through this varied portfolio, Saarinen played an important role in modernizing architecture throughout the first half of the 20th century. What began as a multicultural style with a strong focus on traditional Finnish culture gradually morphed into something more distinctive and modernist, presenting a new kind of Finnish identity.

This exhibition focuses on Saarinen’s work in Finland from the time before his emigration to the United States in 1923. Architectural drawings, photographs, and designs of furniture and lifestyle items shed light on Saarinen’s style, at once revolutionary and grounded in nature and the local environment. He was also skilled at using light and shadow to imbue his work with richness. At a time when many people find themselves pausing to rethink their ways of life, visitors may find Saarinen’s works speaking to them at a visceral level.

Iwaki City Art Museum, Fukushima
Dates November 6 – December 19 2021

More details at the Iwaki City Art Museum website

This exhibition has previously been shown in the Panasonic Shiodome Museum of Art in Tokyo, July 3 – September 20 2021.

Photo: Finnish Heritage Agency, Historian kuvakokoelma