Building Stories: Eero Saarinen, Aline B. Louchheim, and the Telling of Modern Architecture

Date & Time

Apr 8th at 11:15 AM until 11:35 AM


Track 5 (Friday, 10:45 AM-1:00 PM) 


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When architect Eero Saarinen and critic Aline B. Louchheim met in February 1953, it was a historical moment.

To make a better history: it would become a historical moment once their collaboration, their partnership, their marriage would be codified in law and set in stone in language—their letters, after all, are what we look at, the archives what we use for the history we make. And it would become a historical moment once Louchheim's narrative interventions—“I do have the ability to help people constructively clarify their creative ideas,” as she wrote to him shortly into their courtship—became part of Eero's architectural practice. Aline, a trained art historian working as a New York Times art critic, operated as an in-house on-the-ground historian-of-the-moment, and without her sense of historical context and architectural understanding, Saarinen would not have enjoyed the reception to his work of architectural legibility that he did.

This paper weaves together the discipline of history with the analysis of architecture. Exploring the first year of Eero Saarinen and Aline B. Louchheim's relationship from a historical framework—reading letters, office memos, article-related correspondence, and New York Times pieces (reader, she profiled him)—this paper argues for the introduction of narrative frameworks both within the world of our subjects (Aline's role was to provide story for Eero's architecture) and on a secondary, theoretical and scholarly level. In this paper, I pick and choose stories and moments described (in language) in the archive, and then expand them in my own language, creating a discourse out of the existing materials as well as a text for the reader to climb aboard on, following narrative theorist Seymour Chatman; philosopher Michel Foucault; literary scholar Wolfgang Iser.