Buffalo Architectural History Minute
Kleinhans Music Hall
Designed: (1938-40), Eliel and Eero Saarinen
As a memorial to his wife, Mary Seaton Kleinhans, and his mother, Mary Livingston Kleinhans, Edward susbstantally funded this venue. The building was erected during the Depression years and therefore also received funds from the Works Progress Administration. The music hall was one of the first American commissions for the Finnish-American father-and-son team of Eliel and Eero Saarinen and as shown followed the International style. The predominant lines of the music hall both outside and inside are curvilinear and sweeping, suggesting not only the shape of a stringed musical instrument but the shape of music itself in its motion and flow. The design resembles the shape of a violin or cello with the two lobes of the instrument housing the larger and the smaller concert auditoriums in the building. Thus, the shape of the structure suggests its function. A certain amount of contemporary architecture follows this practice Another example from Eero Saarinen’s oeuvre is the TWA Building(1962) at Kennedy Airport, which resembles a bird’s spreading wings. The curving shapes of the exterior, which faithfully reflect interior volumes, look forward to Eero’s later architecture, while the clean lines and careful craftsmanship, evident on the interior, hark back to the elder Saarinen’s devotion to Arts and Crafts ideals.
Inside the music hall, the orphic form of the flaring, wood-paneled auditorium gives almost literal embodiment to Schelling’s contention that architecture is frozen music. Although acoustically superb, the main performance hall is almost austerely plain, perhaps to keep the audience from being diverted from the music. The Saarinens’ concert hall quickly gained renown for its acoustical excellence and became a place of pilgrimage for architects and acoustical engineers from all over the world. Many post-World War II concert halls show its influence, notably, Festival Hall in London (1951). The Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra has used the hall as its home since Kleinhans first opened.
Kleinhans is located on what is now known as Symphony Circle, but originally named The Circle by Buffalo park designers Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux in 1868.
· “Buffalo Architecture: A Guide,” by Francis R. Kowsky, et. al. Cambridge: MIT Press, 1981
· “Music Hall Renowned for Design is Cited by U.S. Parks Service,” by Phil Fairbanks, in The Buffalo News, April 23, 1989
· Google Images Search
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HOLT Architects, P.C.
217 N. Aurora St.
Ithaca, NY 14850
phone 607 273-7600 Ext. 151
fax 607 273-0475