their country estate into a unique fusion of arts and science, culture
and education. Eliel Saarinen won early fame in Helsinki, was
runner-up in the 1922 Chicago Tribune Tower competition, and
moved to the Midwest the following year. He became campus
architect and made Cranbrook Academy an American Bauhaus,
nurturing the talents of his son, Eero (who would later design the
Gateway Arch in St. Louis and Dulles Airport), Charles and Ray
Eames, Harry Bertoia and Florence Knoll.
The Cranbrook Art Museum embodies that spirit and
achievement. When it opened in 1942, there was a lower level
bowling alley but no storage. It accommodated George Booth’s
personal collection, and if he wanted to replace a piece he tucked
it under his arm and walked over from his house on the estate.
The new wing, designed by The Smith Group, puts all 6,000 objects
and artworks on view, for study and contemplation, in glass-walled
archives. Here one can trace the evolution of the chair over the
past hundred years, and explore the history of ceramics from the
1890s to the present. Saarinen’s galleries, which were ahead of
their time in lighting and climate control, have been restored and
upgraded, but the museum is still entered from the grand peristyle.