All posts by Caitlin Daab

Bell Labs Holmdel Complex- Saarinen



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Bell Labs Holmdel Complex is known as one of the crowning achievements of modern architecture. Similar to the look of the John Deere World Headquarters, the Bell Labs Holmdel Complex uses horizontal lines throughout the interior of the building. The exterior shimmers with mirror-like windows divided by vertical and horizontal lines.

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The outside wall is a glass curtain that allows only 25% of outside light to enter while blocking 75% of the suns heat from entering, for this reason, the building is jokingly termed, the “world’s largest mirror”.  The space is modern in style and the intricate design details are incredibly visually pleasing- themes we have seen in nearly all of Saarinen’s most recognized structures.

Inside the main part of the building you are able to see the balconies that make up the multistory offices and labs. This is a open-concept office space that is symmetrically pleasing and adds to the modern look of the design.

This building is known as a place highly appreciated by both architects and scientists, however it stands completely empty today- unoccupied by Bell Labs.


Ingalls Ice Rink- Saarinen

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The Ingalls Ice Rink was built in 1958 and its design resembles that of the previously discussed TWA terminal. Another one of Saarinen’s sweeping designs is noted in the curvature of the roof which is known as the Yale whale- a play off of the fact that Saarinen graduated from Yale. The main structure is composed of solid concrete including the roof which is “hung” from a central point of cable net structures. This innovative architecture leads to the double curved look of the rink’s exterior.  The placement of cables serves to stabilize the extending curves in the face of winds. The center of the dome is only 75ft above the ice but the use of symmetrical slats along the curve of the dome makes it seem much larger.

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The rink is another one of Saarinen’s catenary projects as the dome resembles both the arch and the TWA terminal, a common theme found throughout Saarinen’s projects and designs.

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The beautiful structure was recognized, placing it on the list of America’s Favorite Architecture. Overall, this is another example of how a building that could have been a simple ice rink was turned into a whimsical piece of art by the infamous Saarinen.


The Gateway Arch- Saarinen


This magnificent St. Louis attraction has quite the story. In 1947 the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial Association held a competition to determine a monument that would symbolize the westward expansion of the United States. Eero Saarinen’s Gateway Arch was selected as the winner.

The Arch stands 630ft. tall and 630ft. wide making it the tallest memorial in the United States. Furthermore, it is constructed with stainless steel and represents the tallest stainless steel monument in the world. The cross sections of the legs are made of equilateral triangles that are largest and the base and get incrementally smaller as they move to the crest of the arch.


There is an enormous amount of history behind the design, planning, construction, and hurdles during construction of the Arch, this post will only highlight a few of them, but for more information you can visit: Gateway Arch. The Arch had to be built upwards from either side until the two legs met at the peak. This obviously required a very strategic plan with incredibly precise mathematics, specifically a hyperbolic cosine function. Technically speaking, the “Arch” is actually an inverted weighted catenary because it supports its own weight, additionally, Saarinen wanted the inverted arch to be weighted so that it appeared more curved and less steep.

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Overall, the Arch is an incredibly unique attraction that is nothing short of artistic and architectural genius.


Fun Facts about the Gateway Arch

  • Each leg stands in concrete that is 44ft. thick and 60ft. deep.
  • The Arch is resistant to earthquakes- designed to sway up to 18in. in both directions. It is also able to withstand winds up to 150mph.
  • There are three sets of transportation up the Arch. These modes include: stairs, elevations, and a tram in each leg. images (1)

John Deere World Headquarters- Saarinen


John Deere World Headquarters resides in Moline, Illinois. In an area with little attractions, the company president at the time wanted to construct a building that was distinctive in all aspects- and that is exactly what he got.

“Hewitt emphasized that, while he wanted a headquarters that was unique, it must reflect the character of the company and its employees.”

As stated on the John Deere website, the building has won various architectural awards including the following:

  • Twenty-Five Year Award, 1993 – American Institute of Architects
  • First Honor Award, 1965 – American Institute of Architects
  • Architectural Award of Excellence, 1965 – American Institute of Steel Construction
  • Silver Medal of Honor, 1965 – The Architectural League of New York
  • Collaborative Medal of Honor, 1965 – The Architectural League of New York
  • “Office of the Year,” 1964 – Silver Plaque Award Administrative Management Magazine
  • National “Plant America” Award, 1964 – American Association of Nurseryman

The design is intended to be elaborate but also down to earth and rugged, to reflect the type of business carried out.  The following quote describes Hewitt’s vision,

“The several buildings should be thoroughly modern in concept but should not give the effect of being especially sophisticated or glossy. Instead, they should be more ‘down-to-earth’ and rugged …”

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The repetitive horizontal lines that cover the exterior of the building are seemingly simplistic, yet they manage to give the building the elegance it needs while remaining a natural landscape. Another way Saarinen accomplished the rugged look was through the use of Cor-ten steel, which is steel coated with iron oxide. The strategic use of this particular material was intended to give the building a more rustic look to reflect the outdoor ideology of the company.

Considering this is a workplace, it sure is a beautiful piece of art. Unfortunately, Saarinen died four days after submitting the design contract and was unable to see the finished product.

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Trans World Flight Center- Eero Saarinen

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The Trans World Flight Center, or TWA Flight Center, was the original terminal of the JFK Airport in New York City. This terminal, designed by Eero Saarinen,  shows the unique and freely sculptural design  Saarinen was known for.

The design of the TWA terminal represents Saarinen’s continued exploration of “interior-exterior sculptural effects” (1). His motivation went beyond practical architecture and also served to evoke emotional connections and other stimulating states in those populating the building. In this particular case, he used his artistic and architectural abilities to capture the spirit of flight.

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“we must have an emotional reason as well as a logical end for everything we do”

The TWA terminal is designed in a way that resembles a wing. This vision was accomplished through use of a symmetrical design that placed two cantilevered concrete shells that extend outwards. Inside, this exterior design creates an interior environment intended to evoke emotions of movement through the curvature of the ceilings and stairways. The flow of the building give the interior an appearance of the ceilings, walls, and floors all whisking themselves together. In all, the building serves as a symbol of flight and accomplishes its intention to elicit emotions associated with movement and flight as well (1).

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Structural components of the building include:

  • Wing like, reinforced concrete shell structures composed of four parts extending outward from a central point. The four parts then converge back into the wing-like structures that extend outward on the exterior of the building. These concrete structures are reinforced by steel.

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  • Large glass panels angled inwards from the curved ceilings to the floor. This design is also reinforced with steel and intends to give patrons the ability to see the jet travel outside- a innovative aspect of air travel. Furthermore, the angle of these windows attempts to give a sense of looking down onto the earth from the window of an airplane.

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Images: Google

Eero Saarinen- a 20th Century Architect

Eero Saarinen 1910-1961
Eero Saarinen 1910-1961

My blog posts will be focused on the work of Eero Saarinen (1910-1961), a 20th century, Finnish American architect and industrial designer. Saarinen is know for his neofuturistic style, an artistic and architectural movement that emphasized a desire to depart from post-modernism and move towards an idealistic and better future.

Saarinen found early recognition in furniture design before creating his architectural masterpieces. His pieces of furniture were said to be organic in design and he was widely praised for this unique and artistic approach to home furnishing.

Womb Chair
Womb Chair

That being said, his architectural genius makes the furniture design seem irrelevant. Saarinen is the architect behind dozens of projects that have dramatically changed the field of architecture and challenged the post-modernistic eye. A list of his works can be found here: List of works by Eero Saarinen.

The remainder of my blog posts will highlight a few of his more famous works including: the Gateway Arch, the Milwaukee County War Memorial, the TWA Terminal, the Ingalls Ice Rink, the John Deere World Headquarters, and the Bell Labs Holmdel Complex. Each of these buildings speaks to Saarinen’s neofuturistic style and his passion for exploration and experimentation in American architectural designs.

Gateway Arch
Bell Labs Holmdel Complex
TWA Terminal
Ingalls Ice Rink
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John Deere World Headquarters
Milwaukee County War Memorial
Milwaukee County War Memorial

Building Personification

When preparing to write my blog posts, I continue coming back to the connection between buildings and emotions, or buildings and experiences. Prior to writing these blogs I never really reflected on the substantial impact a building can have on a life or an experience. With this realization I have also taken some time to reflect upon the idea that buildings build stories, they come with myths and expectations. To consider buildings inanimate objects now seems ironic as I am gaining a newfound appreciation for the tremendous life of a building.

A perfect example of a building filled with life is the White House. To imagine the amount of stories, history, events, and changes that have taken place within the White House would be as if one were imagining a human life. To be able to personify a building is a pretty amazing and in my opinion, the White House has as many personal characteristics as the President himself.

As for the architecture of the White House, I would say that the classic columns, the lasting facade, and the story behind the building make it the most important structure in our entire country. Whether it is about the history and stories held within the walls or the beauty of the building itself, the White House is an iconic structure in the US and the rest of the world. 8E13573F-1DD8-B71B-0B05716AAF1D3D48 download hith-white-house-attacks-E hungry-history-cooking-for-the-commander-in-chief-20th-century-white-house-chefs-iStock_000004638435Medium-E

Grand Central Station

In a city as magical as New York City it is inevitable that each block is jammed with astounding architecture. Even the smallest of buildings seem to be strategically designed to fit with the city “look” and the city “feel”. New York City is one of my favorite places in the world because of the busy city feel that surrounds you when you walk the streets.

Aside from the unbelievable architecture that goes into constructing the buildings in major cities, the second most important city life aspect is the transportation. That being said, when beautiful architecture and city transportation come together you have a recipe for a jaw dropping structure. I visit NYC often and during each visit I somehow end up back in Grand Central Station, watching the bustling city life, the trains that take citizens where they need to go without taxi cabs and jay walkers getting in their way. I could sit in this beautiful place for hours on end, people watching, and thinking about the amazing and endless livelihood of a city as large as NYC.

Aside from being a iconic building for cities, train stations come with endless amounts of stories, there is so much history in the structure that many don’t take the time to think about as they rush out the doors and head for the office building they essentially live in. Grand Central Station is beautiful for many reasons, but it certainly does not lack in architectural beauty, with so much detail in the stone, dome ceilings, carefully carved clocks, and much more.

There are obviously a number of buildings in NYC that represent top of the line architectural genius, but a train station represents a city. A train station comes with a cities history, its classical architecture is timeless, despite the time crunched citizens that run through its doors each day without taking an extra minute to take in the beauty of the building itself.

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The Willis Tower

First and foremost, I would like to point out that calling this building the “Willis Tower” hurts my soul. Growing up in Chicago never seemed all that cool until I moved to Oklahoma and felt proud as ever to be able to call Chicago my home. The Willis Tower is a Chicago icon as it towers over other buildings and takes the spotlight in the Chicago skyline. Once considered the tallest building in the world, this architectural giant has quite the story.

I learned about Chicago architecture in the third grade and much of that information has long since been forgotten, so I had to acquire some new information to write this post. While conducting some further research I learned a lot about the building I’ve grown so accustomed to seeing. The architect responsible for designing this game changing structure is Bruce Graham. According to the Chicago Architecture Foundation, the plans for my favorite sky scraper encountered problems at a much larger scale than ever before. Being able to construct a building as tall as the Willis Tower with the ability to withstand winds and other natural events was a task untested. Fortunately for Chicagoans like myself, Graham was successful, and ended up changing the world of enormous buildings.

Today, with the addition of the Skydeck, the Willis Tower not only stands as a jaw dropping structure itself, but it also allows tourists to see the city in an entirely new way. Standing out over the ledge gives an entirely refined appreciation for the enormity of the tower. Furthermore, seeing the rest of the city and its architectural beauty from 103 floors to the sky is an incredibly unique experience.



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Gaylord Memorial Stadium

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I realize that a handful of my classmates have already posted about Gaylord Memorial Stadium but I could not resist adding my thoughts on the new addition to our beautiful campus.

The football stadium is a special place on campus, a place where our university comes together sharing pride for our school. That being said, the stadium needs to elevate that feeling for all of those in attendance.

The newest addition to the stadium is beautiful, it surrounds fans with a sense of belonging, a contrast to the real world. The stadium is literally a bowl in which fans feel as if the rest of the outside world stands still. It is an incredible feeling to have chills covering your body as the American flag covers the field and the thousands of people in the stadium are together in a moment that would not be possible anywhere else in the world. Needless to say, this is a pretty incredible structure.

Over the past few months, when parking in the stadium garage, I have looked over the edge and watched the construction workers. It absolutely blows my mind, to think that the photos of the plan somehow are translated into instructions for the construction workers, who then know exactly which large beam needs to be placed exactly in its position, welded together, etc. It is as if I am watching a little busy town, each person with a task, each screw, bolt, and beam with a place. Before I knew it, it was Game Day and I was standing in the stadium, all filled in, fans safely seated on the structure that was built by human hands. If that isn’t enough to stimulate a mind previously not in tune with architectural thought processes, then I don’t know what is.