Eero Saarinen is the modernist architect behind American icons like the St. Louis Arch and the TWA terminal at JFK, who in a fairly short career entered the pantheon of 20th-century builders. Now the Architecture + Design Museum's new show, ”Eero Saarinen: A Reputation for Innovation,” examines some of the lesser-known aspects of this legacy. He first became a household name (despite or perhaps partly because of the charming Finnish cadence of that name) in 1939 when he won a much-publicized design competition for a new Smithsonian Gallery of Art — and promptly encountered such domestic hostility to the avant-garde Modernist style that his design was never built and even its drawings were lost to history until the late 1990s. But maybe the most fascinating part of the story this exhibition tells is Saarinen's work with the OSS (Office of Strategic Services, which later became the CIA). He volunteered there during WWII, applying his keen sense of design and streamlined functionality, eventually becoming the chief of something called the Presentation Division. A Reputation for Innovation takes a rare look at the intersection of politics, policy, design, architecture and historical events, providing a window not only to the inner workings of a secret government agency but also the mind of one of the great design thinkers of the modern age. A+D Museum, 6032 Wilshire Blvd. Fri., Oct. 5, 6-9 p.m.; $20, $10 students; exhibit runs Tues.-Fri., 11 a.m.-5 p.m.; Sat.-Sun., noon-6 p.m., thru Jan. 3; admission $10, $5 seniors and students. (323) 932-9393.

Tuesdays-Sundays. Starts: Oct. 5. Continues through Jan. 3, 2012

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