Eero Saarinen: Shaping Community

At Concordia Theological Seminary (Fort Wayne), community is in the forefront of who we are,  from are academic structure to our understanding of formation.  The person who designed the campus is a guy named Eero Saarinen.  This link is very helpful in giving an unbiased and brief description  of his vision for the campus.  Link    For your convenience, I copied the portion on the campus below:

Architectural Concord

In 1953, a few years into the GM project, Saarinen was commissioned to design an entire campus for a new Lutheran college in Fort Wayne, Indiana. Concordia Senior College was originally a two-year school intended to prepare students for seminary graduate study. The 191-acre site was flat and visually unremarkable, so the primary burden of establishing both an identity and sense of community would have to be borne by the architecture and planning.

In 1958, Saarinen noted, “The solution seemed to lie in the village-concept: a group of buildings that would have a quiet, unified environment into which the students could withdraw to find a complete, balanced life and yet one which was related to the outside world.” The final design was inspired by a Scandinavian village and was visually unified by the use of pitched roofs throughout, consistent orientation of building axes, and a common materials palette, including diamond-pattern brick walls and black roof tiles. As at GM, Saarinen included a man-made lake, in which the central chapel would be reflected, as a focal point in the plan.

Project records show that Saarinen was intimately involved in the Concordia project, signifying his particular interest to create a community that was a place of both learning and living, similar to what he had enjoyed at Cranbrook. In a memo to his staff, he envisioned the college “as a very closely knit group of buildings” and gave extensive thought to how spaces would be utilized, from the way professors conducted their classes to the routes by which students would move about the campus. For example, while the school administrators originally wanted the students to be housed in three large dormitories of 150 students each, Saarinen proposed smaller houses for 36 students each, arranged in clusters, remembering later, “We hoped that this intimate housing would encourage real student responsibility for the group within each house.”

Concordia reflects not only the influence of Saarinen’s years at Cranbrook, but also that of his father. Eliel Saarinen taught his son to design for the “next largest context—a chair in a room, a room in a house, a house in an environment, environment in a city plan.” In the case of Concordia, with its featureless site, Eero looked to the community’s identity for inspiration. While the project’s individual buildings are considered by many to be among his least inspiring, through thoughtful groupings of buildings, sensitive landscape design, and careful arrangement of private and communal spaces, Saarinen successfully imbued the campus with a sense of place that reflected and enhanced its communal character.



One thought on “Eero Saarinen: Shaping Community

Leave a Reply