Why would a prom photo from almost 3 years ago - with my beautiful date and great friend Griffin - find its way into my blog about Europe? What if I wrote here that on a museum visit with Saila, Anna's mom, I witnessed not only the home of one of the most esteemed Finnish architect Families, but also the architects of the backdrop that would also happen to be where I took my prom photos? It would sound far fetched, but as it turns out 4,300 miles away from my hometown in Michigan, I was visiting the home of the architect that was the leading figure in creating the Cranbrook academy - an academy of sciences and arts that is now a gem of south-eastern Michigan.
During my exchange experience in Finland in 2007, I had learned much about the Saarinen family. The famous father and son architects not only created a unique architectural style for Finland [and perhaps Eliel's most famous, the Helsinki Central railway station], but also created some of the most iconic buildings in America, including Dulles international airport and the Gateway to the West in St. Louis, MO.
[ Helsinki Train Station ]
What I did not know however, and to my great surprise in a museum so far away from my home in Michigan, was that this family not only resided in Michigan for a large portion of their lives, but also built Cranbrook academy and called West Bloomfield, MI their home.
[ on some steps in the Cranbrook Academy - only if I had known then, just months after returning from Finland, that I was sitting amongst some of the greatest works of one of the most famous Finnish architects! ]
Eero Saarinen, the son of the legendary Eliel Saarinen, also impacted the metro Detroit area by creating the GM tech center, noted at its time for revolutionizing the American industrial architecture scene by combining functionality with aesthetic design and color. For their time and place, many of the buildings created by Eero and Eliel Saarinen were extremely forward thinking and cutting edge. And as I researched further, the only bigger name in Detroit architecture for the time was Albert Kahn [ who is the architect of the Fisher building where my father works, and many other landmark buildings in the city] who was born in the Rhein region of Germany and is known today as "the architect of Detroit" - yet another unique connection to everything that I have been learning and observing abroad.
As I toured the Hvitträsk estate with Saila - the family's original home outside of Helsinki that became a summer getaway for the family from Michigan - I took note of the modern elements in the house. For being built at the turn of the century, the inclusion of functional windows and natural lighting, as well as running water were all ideas that shaped modern homes in the decades to come. And as any good Finnish home, the attention to nature with the location along the forest and lakes [ and sauna as well! ] was also commendable.
There is something so exciting about being an the other side of the world, yet walking around the museum and reading information plaques and being able to say that "wow, Bloomfield Hills, MI, Cranbrook?! That is just miles away from my house AND I took my prom photos there!" The visit was an excellent suggestion by Saila, and opened my eyes to the evolution of not only Finnish design, but also many of the names that created what would later become American design as well - some of which may be just around the corner from where I am from.