Eero Saarinen was the son of the celebrated Finnish architect and first President of the Cranbrook Academy of Art, Eliel Saarinen. Born in Helsinki, he emigrated with his family to the United States in 1923.

Initially studied sculpture at the Académie de la Grande Chaumiére in Paris (1929/30) and later architecture at Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut, graduating in 1934. He received a scholarship there which enabled him to travel to Europe (1934/35). On his return, he taught at the Cranbrook Academy of Art. In 1937, he began a collaboration with Charles Eames which culminated in a series of highly progressive and prize-winning furniture designs for The Museum of Modern Art´s 1940 "Organic Design in Home Furnishings" competition. He later produced several highly successful furniture designs for Knoll International. He worked in his father´s architectural office until Eliel´s death in 1950. His greatest architectural project was the remarkable TWA terminal at John F. Kennedy Airport, New York.