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How Eero Saarinen Imagined the Ingalls Rink at Yale


In a time of modernist architecture, Eero Saarinen broke the mold by creating emotionally compelling buildings. When designing the Ingalls Rink for Yale’s hockey team, Saarinen used suspended cables to create a fluid-looking roof and a truly unique space.

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.


Saarinen sent people out from his office all over the country to look and see what a great hockey rink would be like and they came back and said, 'they're all horrible. They're all just barns with ice in the middle.' So he set out to make something that would express the excitement of a hockey game. We have the problem of a roof, and a new way of using old materials.

We're spanning the space by one single concrete arch, then hanging cables from that arch, and on that we build the roof.

Remember, he wanted to be a sculptor, so he had that innately in him.

Where did he get the idea of extending the structure and creating that lights at the end that make it look like a Norse ship?

I don't know.

Saarinen made amazing shapes - Ingalls Rink was called, for a while, the Yale whale.

It almost looked like a huge beached whale - this great sculptural object. You hadn't seen something like that before.

It was an attitude that you could almost described as picturesque - his willingness to make architecture entertaining. He cared about what images buildings evoked - what they felt like. He wanted to create buildings that you would engage with emotionally, and that's something very different from what was really going on with modernism in the fifties.


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