Aline Saarinen might be the most influential American architecture critic you’ve never heard of. So well-known was Saarinen that her fame and status were taken for granted by TV Guidewhen it published an interview with her in 1970 titled “Why is Aline Saarinen a Cultural Institution?” She had already been the art critic for theNew York Times and a best-selling author, when Saarinen began a career in television in 1962, after the death of her second husband, architect Eero Saarinen. She was the first art critic hired to make regular appearances on a network television program, namely NBC’s Today show, and was a frequent and popular presence on television throughout the 1960s. In her ten-year TV career, Saarinen reported in at least 150 broadcasts, including numerous segments on Today, as well as programs like The Frank McGee Reportand Meet the Press. She was also featured in a number of prime-time specials, including The Art of Collecting (1964) and Bravo Picasso (1967), some of which she wrote and produced herself. Saarinen’s influence was arguably less due to what she said about architecture, her specific ideas and opinions, and more due to how she said it. With her style of criticism, Saarinen sent the message that everyone had a stake in good design, and moreover was something that anyone could engage with and have opinions about. With an audience much larger than most if not all of her peers, Saarinen played a key role in shaping the course of professional criticism, as well as the public conversation on architecture, in the postwar US.
So begins Emily Pugh’s wonderfully informative and well-researched article at Failed Architecture, Before ArchDaily and Dezeen, There Was Aline Saarinen.