Alvar Aalto 1898-1976
Alvar Aalto was a Finnish designer who led a rich and varied career as both an architect and designer.
In 1921, Aalto qualified as an architect from the Helsinki Institute of Technology. Later, this department would be known as part of the Aalto University. He then set up his first architectural practice in Jyväskylä, Finland. His early projects followed the traditional Nordic design which was still predominant at the time. But in the late 1920s and early 30s he travelled in Europe, where he and his architect wife, Aino Marsio, discovered the latest trends in European Modernism.
This resulted in Aalto entering a pure Functionalist phase which would last for several years, and through which he was able to make an international breakthrough, largely due to the Paimio Sanatorium (1929-1933), which stood as an important Functionalist milestone. Aalto had begun to realise the power of user-friendly, functional design, which would be translated into his architecture. By the late 1930s and beyond, his work became infused with organic influences and the use of natural materials, which increased the freedom in the design of his spaces.
'Every house, every product of architecture… should be a fruit of our endeavour to build an earthly paradise for people.'
Aalto’s aim in his work was to treat each project like a work of art – being involved in every detail, such as furniture, lighting and fittings. In 1935, Artek was formed to promote Aalto’s furniture, alongside his architecture. His furniture design married functionality with aesthetics and was produced serially. His aim was to encourage more beauty in everyday life in the home. It was also at this time that Aalto became interested in the use of glass, as it allowed him greater freedom in creating form. In 1936, he won a glassware design competition which lead to the birth of his famous Savoy vase.
From the 1950s onwards, Aalto’s projects were mainly public buildings, large scale and incredibly urban, even brutal. He also endeavoured to work more and more in countries other than Finland, and a number of both private and public buildings were erected to his design. His widespread influence on design still resonates today as his works influence the ever-changing world of architecture and furniture alike.
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