When architect Eero Saarinen died suddenly in 1961, some of his most important work was still under construction. The TWA Flight Center, Dulles International Airport, and the Gateway Arch were all incomplete— not unlike the truncated relationship he had with his son, Eric. More than 50 years later, Eero’s buildings are monuments to his brilliance and creative foresight. But for Eric, they’re different kinds of reminders: of an absent father, a man who left his family for another woman, and for his work.
That emotional thicket of appreciation and resentment, of celebration and pain, is at the heart of the documentary Eero Saarinen: The Architect Who Saw the Future, which will air on PBS December 27. Directed by Peter Rosen, with cinematography by Eric Saarinen, it’s an ambitious film that attempts more than its one-hour running time can handle. But by introducing Eero’s buildings through Eric’s exploration of them, we engage with the architecture on a human rather than a purely conceptual level.