The Miller house in Columbus, Indiana, is a surprisingly restrained design
for Eero Saarinen, who created the soaring Gateway Arch in St. Louis
and the bird-like TWA terminal at Kennedy Airport in New York. A white
canopy is supported on slender steel columns to shade the glass sliders
and slate cladding, and this modern classic is enhanced by Dan Kiley's
landscaping and the elegant interiors of Alexander Girard. It was
commissioned in 1957 by the late J. Irwin Miller, a visionary industrialist who
helped transform this small Midwestern city into a celebrated showcase
of modern architecture. He and his wife, xenia, were progressive and
public-spirited, and those qualities are embodied in the house, which
their family bequeathed to the Indianapolis Museum of Art. It has been
meticulously restored and opens for public tours in May.
I had the good fortune to visit the house when the Millers still lived there
and I asked them how it came about. "Eero proposed different schemes
and we said, 'go back and try again,' since we didn't want to tell him
what to do," Mrs. Miller recalled. "His first design was raised on stilts in
the woods among the mosquitoes and I turned that down right away!
Later, I told him, 'I don't want to live in the same house for the rest of my
life—what are you going to do about that?' He replied, 'I'm going to
build a neutral structure and all the color is going into the drapes and
39 furnishings. Any time you want a new house you can throw them away
and start all over again!'"