Courtesy Manuscripts & Archives, Yale University Library

On Dec. 27, PBS's American Masters documentary series, presented by WNET's public television station Thirteen, will conclude their 30th anniversary season with an hour-long episode called “Eero Saarinen: The Architect Who Saw the Future." The documentary follows the celebrated architect Eero Saarinen's son Eric, on a journey through the modernist structures his father designed, including the Gateway Arch in St. Louis, Dulles International Airport near Washington D.C., the David S. Ingalls Skating Rink at Yale University in Princeton, N.J., and the TWA Flight Center at John F. Kennedy International Airport near New York City. Eero, who died at the age of 51 in 1961, was posthumously awarded the AIA Gold Medal one year after his death, for his stellar contributions to American architecture.

Dulles International Airport
Courtesy Eric Saarinen/Peter Rosen Productions, Inc. Dulles International Airport

Born in Finland in 1910 to noted architect Eliel Saarinen, and his sculptor wife Loja, Eero and his family immigrated to the United States in 1923 and settled into a town near the Cranbrook Institute of Architecture and Design, north of Detroit. An exposure to art and design at an early age seemed to have prompted Eero to pursue a degree in these fields, and so, from 1930 to 1934, he studied at the Yale School of Architecture. After spending some post-grad years abroad, he returned to the U.S. and began working with his father’s practice in 1936.

The PBS documentary explores Eero's entrance into the field of architecture after winning a design competition to build the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial (later the Gateway Arch). His son Eric, who was also the director of photography and co-producer of the film, shot each of the famous structures with drones, which allows the audience to view the buildings from a unique perspective.

St. Louis Gateway Arch
Courtesy Eric Saarinen/Peter Rosen Productions, Inc. St. Louis Gateway Arch

“This film is both an immersive look at an architect’s work and a father-son story across generations," says director and producer of the film, Peter Rosen, in a press release by Thirteen. "Once Eric agreed to go on this journey with me, I knew the results would be compelling and revealing,”

The program will premiere nationwide Dec. 27 on local PBS channels at 8 p.m.

Producer and director Peter Rosen and director of photography and co-producer Eric Saarinen, ASC, in front of North Christian Church in Columbus, Indiana
Courtesy Joe Harpring/Peter Rosen Productions, Inc. Producer and director Peter Rosen and director of photography and co-producer Eric Saarinen, ASC, in front of North Christian Church in Columbus, Indiana