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Olav Hammarstrom Papers

 Collection
Identifier: 1995-19

Collection Scope

The collection includes personal papers, publications, photographs, drawings, and slides. The materials relating to Olav Hammarstrom’s life and career consist of some articles on his architectural designs, the United Nations Report on Hammarstrom’s rattan and bamboo furniture in the Philippines, and photographic images of furniture and architectural design projects.

SERIES I: Papers (undated) contains correspondence and a one-page appendix to his resume.

SERIES II: Publications (1952-1961) consists primarily of magazine articles relative to Hammarstrom’s architecture, as well as the United Nations Report.

SERIES III: Photographs (circa 1956, undated) contains over 70 black and white prints of furniture, design drawings, and architecture. The slides are of architectural renderings and as-built projects.

SERIES IV: Oversize (undated, 1996) contains a 1996 feasibility study for the renovation of M.I.T.’s Baker House. Hammarstrom was interviewed by the M.I.T. Planning Office in 1991, in preparation for the study, regarding his part in the original design and development of the project. Also included are project folders containing images of prototypes and small conceptual sketches of various architectural projects.

Dates

  • 1930 - 1956

Creator

Access

Access to the collection is unrestricted.

Use

Permission to use collection materials must be requested in writing.

History

Olav Hammarstrom, architect and furniture designer, was born July 16, 1906 in Heinola, Finland. He received degrees from the University of Technology and the Athenaeum in Helsinki and worked for several leading architectural firms in Finland. He managed the firm of Alvar Aalto while Aalto was in the U.S. and in 1948 joined Aalto to work on the Baker House dormitory at M.I.T.

Hammarstrom decided to stay in the U.S. and shortly after the M.I.T. project, married fellow Finn Marianne Strengell, whom he had known in Helsinki. Previously married to sculptor Charles Dusenbury, she was head of the weaving department at Cranbrook Art Academy from 1937-1961, and a major figure in textile design and weaving. At Cranbrook, Hammarstrom joined Eero Saarinen in his architectural firm and from 1949-1954 was in charge of interiors and furnishings of the General Motors Technical Center, the majority of the textiles designed by Strengell. He left the firm in 1954 but rejoined it again in 1962 at its new location of Hamden, Conn. During this time he was in charge of the interior space redesign of the 36-story CBS office building in New York City, and the design of a Bloomfield Hills, Mich. residence for Loja Saarinen, wife of Eliel.

Along with his wife Strengell, Hammarstrom was part of a U.N. field study tour in Japan, from 1951-1953, where he studied the manufacture of bamboo and rattan furniture without power tools, and in the Philippines, where he was an adviser in the design and manufacture of rattan furniture. He wrote a report, “Design and Manufacture of Wood and Rattan Furniture in the Philippines,” which is included in the collection. He also worked on similar projects in Jamaica.

Hammarstrom was the architect for several churches including the contemporary designs of the Chapel of St. James the Fisherman in Wellfleet, Mass., for which he received the A.I.A. award for design, and St. Anselm’s Mission Church in Lafayette, Calif. The Hammarstroms purchased property in Wellfleet and in 1952 he designed their home, where they at first vacationed, then beginning in the 1970s, lived full-time. The design was lauded for its “one with nature” feel, built without removing one tree from the property, and was filled with Hammarstrom’s bamboo and rattan furniture and Strengell’s richly textured rugs and textiles. He designed over 50 residences, the majority in Wellfleet and on the East coast, including a Wellfleet summer residence for Lily Saarinen, first wife of Eero Saarinen. Today, several of these houses, including Hammarstrom’s, Lily Saarinen's, and one designed for Laszlo Tisza, fall under the protection of the Cape Cod Modern House Trust.

The Hammarstroms made extensive study tours throughout the world; many slides of this travel are in the Strengell collection. They lived in Wellfleet until their deaths. Strengell died in 1998 and Hammarstrom on December 10, 2002.

Extent

2.33 Linear Feet (1 MS, 2 OS)

Language of Materials

English

Abstract

Olav Hammarstrom, architect and furniture designer, was born July 16, 1906, in Heinola, Finland. He received degrees from the University of Technology and the Athenaeum in Helsinki and worked for several leading architectural firms in Finland. He managed the firm of Alvar Aalto while Aalto was in the U.S. and, after joining him to work on the Baker House dormitory at M.I.T. in 1948, he decided to stay in the U.S. and married fellow Finn Marianne Strengell, head of the weaving department at Cranbrook Art Academy from 1937-1961, and a major figure in textile design and weaving. At Cranbrook, Hammarstrom joined Eero Saarinen in his architectural firm and from 1949-1954 was in charge of interiors and furnishings of the General Motors Technical Center, the majority of the textiles designed by Strengell. He left the firm in 1954 but rejoined it again in 1962 at its new location of Hamden, Conn. During this time he was in charge of the interior space redesign of the 36-story CBS office building in New York City, and the design of a Bloomfield Hills, Mich. residence for Loja Saarinen, wife of Eliel. Hammarstrom was the architect for several churches including the Chapel of St. James the Fisherman in Wellfleet, Mass., where the Hammarstroms purchased property in 1952. He designed their home, where they at first vacationed, then beginning in the 1970s, lived full-time. He designed over 50 residences, the majority in Wellfleet and on the East coast, including a Wellfleet summer residence for Lily Saarinen, first wife of Eero Saarinen. Today, several of these houses, including Hammarstrom’s, Lily Saarinen's, and one designed for Laszlo Tisza, fall under the protection of the Cape Cod Modern House Trust. The materials in his collection relate to his life and career and consist of some articles on his architectural designs, the United Nations Report on Hammarstrom’s rattan and bamboo furniture in the Philippines, and photographic images of furniture and architectural design projects.

Arrangement

The collection is arranged into four series: Papers (Box 1), Publications (Box 1), Photographs (Box 1-3). and Oversize (Box 4).

Additional Access

Over 100 architectural drawings are catalogued in the Cranbrook Academy of Art Library catalog.

Acquisition

Drawings and renderings were donated by Olav and Marianne (Strengell) Hammarstrom in 1995, with subsequent additions in 1991 and 1996. Records were also donated in June 2003 from the estate of Olav Hammarstrom.

Related Materials

Marianne Strengell Papers (1991-07): Contains two framed collages of wood, cork and fabric, possibly by Hammarstrom, per a reference in the finding aid to his papers in the Archives of American Art.

Olav Hammarstrom Oral history (transcription available)

Olav Hammarstrom Papers, Archives of American Art

Transfers

Architectural drawings were separated and included in the Architectural Drawing Collection.

An audio cassette was transferred to the Audio Recording Collection (Tape 78).

Processing History

Cheri Y. Gay, 2011.
Title
Guide to the Olav Hammarstrom Papers
Status
Completed
Author
Cheri Y. Gay
Date
2011
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
English
Script of description
Latin
Edition statement
Resource record created by Laura MacNewman.

Repository Details

Part of the Cranbrook Archives, Cranbrook Center for Collections and Research Repository

Contact:
39221 Woodward Ave.
P.O. Box 801
Bloomfield Hills MI 48303 US