Eero and Eliel Saarinen Compete for St. Louis

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The famous Gateway Arch in St. Louis came out of an architectural competition, where both Eliel and his son, Eero, entered designs. Confusion over a telegraph addressed to “E. Saarinen” led to a celebration for Eliel, when it was actually Eero who had won the competition. The design won Eero critical recognition and helped launch his career as an architect of renown.


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.

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Both teams were in the same building on other sides of a wall, working on this competition.

And after the first stage, they sent a telegram to Mr. E. Saarinen.

I had heard the story many times - the telegram came to the door.

It said Saarinen won, so they rejoiced for three days that Eliel had won, but it was Eero Saarinen who won the competition, not Eliel Saarinen, so they celebrated again, but in actual fact, I think it was a big blow to Eliel - he had to admit that his son had beaten him - beaten him badly - but by a better design.

The major concern here was to create a monument which would have lasting significance - a landmark of our time - an absolutely simple shape, such as the Egyptian pyramids, seemed to be the basis of the great memorials.

The St. Louis Arch could be a triumphal arch for our ages, as the triumphal arches of classical antiquity were for theirs.

The St. Louis Arch is one of the rare moments where an architectural competition yielded something truly daring and bold and important.