May 24, 2012
Saarinen's Quest: A Memoir. Knight, Richard. San Francisco: William Stout Publishers, 2008.
For anyone wondering who the person was that created the famous Gateway Arch, this book has many answers. Saarinen's Quest is an intimate and revealing book about the man who developed the famous monument on the riverfront at St. Louis. He also created several other architectural wonders in his brief but spectacular career.
The author, Richard Knight, was Saarinen's house photographer in his architectural firm from 1957-1961. Knight spent much of his time documenting the creative activity at the firm. Knight's photos and brief personal memoir give the reader an unprecedented glimpse behind the scenes at the practice of Eero Saarinen & Associates.
Saarinen's use of large scale models is very apparent in this book. He began using these in the late 1950s. The images of the large scale models help give clarity to some of his projects that are difficult to visualize from traditional drawings or regular scale models.
The author provides more than just a fact list about Saarinen's varied projects. He gives details about the man and his creative team that help illuminate the work and the artistic process. For anyone trying to understand the creative mind behind the Arch, this is a good place to start. In fact, the Gateway Arch was reportedly Saarinen's favorite project.
The book includes a foreword on Saarinen's artistic vision and office culture by Cesar Pelli, who began his career in the architect's office, and an afterword by architectural historian Pierluigi Serraino on the significance of large-scale model-making in Saarinen's work.