The following press release was posted in May 2009 and describes an exhibit appearing that year.
POUGHKEEPSIE, NY—The Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center will provide a view into noted architect Eero Saarinen’s original design for The Emma Hartman Noyes House (1958), part of his 1954 master plan for the north end of the Vassar campus, with an exhibition featuring his original architectural model for the site, on view from June 2 through September 6, 2009.
Curated by alumna Vanessa Beloyianis (Vassar class of 2008), the exhibition will feature the newly restored model—the only surviving record of Saarinen’s original design—along with a selection of drawings and photographs that will help illustrate the inter-relationships of this building, furnishings, the nearby campus architecture, and nature.
Beloyianis and Professor Nicholas Adams discovered the model in 2007, which was, according to James Mundy, The Anne Hendricks Bass Director of Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center, “in poor shape, filthy and unglued, and parts were lost.”
Two conservationists, Margo Delidow and Eric Meier from the Museum of Modern Art, worked from May to October 2008 to restore the model—re-creating missing parts, cleaning and piecing it back together. As the original was so detailed, each missing part needed to be crafted in a careful multi-step process. Delidow noted that this “layered quality” is one reason the model is “so appealing to the eye.”
ABOUT THE DISCOVERY
Beloyianis discovered Finnish-American architect Eero Saarinen’s model of the Emma Hartman Noyes House in the basement of Vassar’s Main Building on a “treasure hunt” with her adviser Nicholas Adams, a professor of art at Vassar, on December 11, 2007.
“It was really quite an adventure to be wandering through the dark and dirty basement of Main Building, searching for something that was only rumored to exist there, and then to actually find it!” Beloyianis exclaimed.
She and Adams began the search for the model after hearing rumors that it might still be extant. At the time, Beloyianis was a student in Adams’ Art 370 class with an assignment to report on Noyes House. The class focused on Vassar buildings, part of a Getty Grant that the College received to evaluate its modern architectural heritage.
Beloyianis, an art history major, was awarded the Frances Daly Fergusson Prize for her senior thesis on Saarinen’s time at Vassar. She plans to study interior architecture and remains a proponent of Saarinen’s work on campus. As she noted, he designed a building that fits in with its surrounding, while including abstract references to Gothic and Classical architecture as well as a sense of the history of the site’s former athletic field and garden.
ABOUT THE ARCHITECT AND THE EMMA HARTMAN NOYES HOUSE
Eero Saarinen (1910–61) is celebrated as one of the most innovative and prolific masters of 20th-century architecture and design, known for works such as the St. Louis Gateway Arch, the General Motors Technical Center in Detroit, and the TWA Terminal at John F. Kennedy Airport, New York.
“On existing campuses, there is the challenge of building proud buildings of our own time that are in harmony with the existing architecture and the outdoor space,” explained Saarinen in 1952 before beginning his work at Vassar. His design for Noyes House meets this challenge by employing modern architectural elements to evoke the qualities of its surroundings.
Unlike many of his modernist contemporaries, Saarinen was always considerate of the character, symbolism, and tradition associated with his designs, and he defined the idea of context broadly. It is for this reason that he became an especially popular campus architect and caught the attention of the chairman of the Vassar College Art Department, Agnes Rindge Claflin, who recommended him as a “very eminent, younger generation” architect to the then Vassar President, Sarah Gibson Blanding.
In 1955, Saarinen began his work on a design for a new dormitory at Vassar, choosing a site at the north end of campus known as “The Circle.” This round clearing dated back to the founding of the college and formerly functioned as an athletic field. Saarinen’s original model, which he presented to the college in May 1956, includes two identical four-story structures and a central single-story structure situated around the northern half of “The Circle,” as well as landscaping around the southern half.
In reality only one of the four-story structures in the original model was constructed, as the cost for the single wing was actually double the estimate for the entire project. The existing Emma Hartman Noyes House on the Vassar campus is quite similar in terms of basic form and detail to his original design.
Saarinen died in 1961 at age 51, just three years after completing Noyes House.
ABOUT THE FRANCES LEHMAN LOEB ART CENTER
The Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center was founded in 1864 as the Vassar College Art Gallery. The current 36,400-square-foot facility, designed by Cesar Pelli and named in honor of the new building's primary donor, opened in 1993. The Lehman Loeb Art Center's collections chart the history of art from antiquity to the present and comprise almost 18,000 works, including paintings, sculptures, drawings, prints, photographs, and glass and ceramic wares. Notable holdings include the Warburg Collection of Old Master prints, an important group of Hudson River School paintings given by Matthew Vassar at the college's inception, and a wide range of works by major European and American 20th- century painters. Vassar was the first U.S. college founded with a permanent art collection and gallery, and at any given time, the Permanent Collection Galleries of the Art Center feature approximately 350 works from Vassar's extensive collections.
Admission to the Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center is free. The art center is open to the public Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, Saturday, 10:00 am–5:00 pm; Thursday, 10:00 am–9:00 pm; and Sunday, 1:00–5:00 pm. Located at the entrance to the historic Vassar College campus, the Art Center can be reached within minutes from other Mid-Hudson cultural attractions, such as Dia:Beacon, the Franklin Roosevelt and Eleanor Roosevelt national historic sites and homes, and the Vanderbilt mansion. The Art Center is wheelchair accessible. For more information, the public may call (845) 437-5632 or visit fllac.vassar.edu.
Vassar College is a highly selective, coeducational, independent, residential liberal arts college founded in 1861.