Written By: Eliza Berman

We sit in his chairs, road-trip to his iconic landmarks and even worship in his churches. Eero Saarinen, born in Finland and educated in the U.S., was one of the most influential architects of the 20th century. Since his death at age 51 from a brain tumor, he has been outlived as is the fate of all successful architects by the work he created, neofuturistic designs that have become a permanent fixture of our landscape.

The son of the renowned Finnish architect Eliel Saarinen, the junior Saarinen grew up in his father’s workroom, and the two entered into a partnership after Eero completed his studies at the Yale School of Architecture. His work ranged from the grand the TWA Terminal at JFK Airport and the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial Arch in St. Louis to the everyday, as with the chairs he designed both on his own and with Charles Eames.

Here, on what would have been his 105th birthday, is a selection of Saarinen’s work photographed for LIFE Magazine from the in-demand, design-oriented furniture to the landmarks that define American cities. Though his aesthetic was eclectic, it can be summed up in four words, as LIFE put it following Saarinen’s death in 1961: “poetic inventiveness, monumental simplicity.”

Architect Eero Saarinen at home in his study w. furniture designed by him, 1958.

Eero Saarinen at home 1958

Frank Scherscehl The LIFE Picture Collection/Shutterstock

Womb Chair by Eero Saarinen, 1953

Womb Chair by Eero Saarinen, 1953

Gjon Mili The LIFE Picture Collection/Shutterstock

Saarinen House in Detroit, 1958.

Saarinen House in Detroit, 1958.

Frank Scherscehl The LIFE Picture Collection/Shutterstock

Fountain in front of new Law Library designed by Eerro Saarinen, 1961.

Fountain in front of new Law Library designed by Eerro Saarinen, 1961.

Andreas Feininger The LIFE Picture Collection/Shutterstock

The TWA terminal, designed by Eero Saarinen, 1961.

The TWA terminal, designed by Eero Saarinen, 1961.

Dmitri Kessel The LIFE Picture Collection/Shutterstock

Jefferson National Expansion Memorial Arch designed by Eero Saarinen, 1965.

Jefferson National Expansion Memorial Arch designed by Eero Saarinen, 1965.

Robert W. Kelley The LIFE Picture Collection/Shutterstock

Jefferson National Expansion Memorial Arch designed by Eero Saarinen, 1965.

Jefferson National Expansion Memorial Arch designed by Eero Saarinen, 1965.

A.Y. Owen The LIFE Images Collection/Shutterstock

Walled-in glass bank designed by Eero Saarinen, 1967.

Walled-in glass bank designed by Eero Saarinen, 1967.

John Loengard The LIFE Picture Collection/Shutterstock

Interior of North Christian Church designed by Eero Saarinen, 1967.

Interior of North Christian Church designed by Eero Saarinen, 1967.

John Loengard The LIFE Picture Collection/Shutterstock

Crowds out side of the North Christian Church designed by Eero Saarinen, 1967.

Crowds out side of the North Christian Church designed by Eero Saarinen, 1967.

John Loengard The LIFE Picture Collection/Shutterstock

More Like This

history

A Baseball Photographer With a Wandering Eye

history

“Fluttery in the Stomach”: Capturing The First Weeks of College

history

The Champ, The Beatles and a Tearful Girl: The Photography of Bob Gomel

history

A Ceremony of Surrender: The Formal End to a Brutal War

history

All Together Now: The Highs and Lows of A One-Room Schoolhouse

history

What Meets the Eye: The Photography of Co Rentmeester