Conquering gravity with Saarinen at the TWA Flight Center


“At TWA, we tried to design a building in which the architecture itself would express the drama and excitement of travel. In a way, this is man’s desire to conquer gravity.” – Eero Saarinen

Major funding for American Masters — Eero Saarinen: The Architect Who Saw the Future is provided by the A. Alfred Taubman Foundation. Additional funding is provided in part by American Institute of Architects, National Endowment for the Arts, The Durst Family, Vital Projects Fund, Eric and Katherine Larson Family Fund, MCR Development LLC, Gerald D. Hines, Elise Jaffe + Jeffrey Brown, KieranTimberlake, KPF Foundation, and Daryl and Steven Roth Foundation.

Major support for American Masters is provided by AARP. Additional funding is provided by Rosalind P. Walter, The Philip and Janice Levin Foundation, Judith and Burton Resnick, Ellen and James S. Marcus, Lillian Goldman Programming Endowment, The Blanche & Irving Laurie Foundation, Vital Projects Fund, Cheryl and Philip Milstein Family, The André and Elizabeth Kertész Foundation, Lenore Hecht Foundation, Michael & Helen Schaffer Foundation, and public television viewers.

What I love about the way Saarinen worked is he made big models - huge models that he could put his head into and really look around at architectural space and surfaces. Eero started wanting to put the model together piece by piece in flexible ways, so we could change shapes and detail as the model was being made. There was this rigorous sense of how you actually build this stuff. Lots of computers today, and I think there's nothing that compares to this Simply because it's the closest you have to space making.

At TWA, we tried to design a building in which the architecture itself would express the drama and excitement of travel. In a way this is man's desire to conquer gravity.

It's hard to take a bad picture, I mean everywhere I look, it's like - beautiful there, beautiful there.

Everything is so organic. In the old days nobody was making curved concrete buildings.

They were so sophisticated they couldn't draw it.

They had to build the model first and then they had to draw what the model TWA was a particularly long and difficult process. I think Eero worked for about a year, presented to the client who liked it and accepted it, but Eero started having second thoughts.

Eero told the client that although they had approved it, he had decided that the design was not right. He had to restart and redesign it again, and he needed an extra year.