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Alvar Aalto 1898 - 1976

Updated: Jan 27, 2021

Alvar Aalto can not be described as an Architect alone, he was a designer of many genres, His furniture, glassware and fabrics are seen today in the high street, repeated in his innovative and simple designs using reusuable materials such as various woods and glass. Together with his wife Aino they have managed to influence many a modern home.

Alvar was born in Finland at the turn of the 20th Century to a father with the job as a Land Surveyor and a mother as a post mistress. He began studying as an Architect in his late teens which was interrupted by the Finnish War, but carried on after, His first building was family driven as he built a home for his parents.

His first architectural office opened in 1923 under the name of 'Alvar Aalto, Architect and Monumental Artist'. in these early years his main work was producing single family homes.

One of his most notable works are the Municipal Library in Leningrad Russia, built in 1927, this building has recently undergone a renovation.

Viipuri Municipal Library, Leningrad, Russia

Entrance to Viipuri Municipal Library, Leningrad, Russia

Another notable building design is the former TB sanatorium in Piamio, Southwest Finland, completed in 1933, although its design and concept would not be out of place in a more modern era.

Paimio Sanatorium, Paimio, Finland
Paimio Sanatorium, Piamio, Finland

In October 1924 Aalto married architect Aino Marsio and honeymooned in Italy. This exposure to classical Mediterranean culture and design influenced the couple for the years ahead.

Aalto's International reputation began to develop after completion of the two above examples. He was invited to MOMA in New York in 1938 to exhibit some of his works , this transpired to be groundbreaking for his US Career as the exhibition went on a 12 city tour, only the second ever Architect to have had this opportunity, second to Le Corbusier.

Aalto's architectural style spanned the changes in style from Nordic Classicism to International Style, and throughout his career he designed over 500 buildings, 300 of which were built predominantly in Finland although a few appeared in the US, Germany, Italy and France.

His influence of his clean crisp style of design had more of an impact across the world rather than a physical legacy of his buildings on the international stage.

As a couple Aalto and his wife Aino saw influence of their furniture design on a more international level. The rejection of less aesthetically pleasing materials, in favour of "humanising architecture" in his own words and using materials, such as beech wood and plywood, allowed the beauty of simple natural designs to dominate the furniture market. One world renowned item is the Model 60 stacking stool, well recognized, as used by Apple in their stores around the world.

The Model 60 Chair seen in Apple stores the world over

"Nothing is as dangerous in architecture as dealing with separated problems. If we split life to separated problems we split the possibilities to make good building art."

Alvar Aalto

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