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about Alvar Aalto

ALVAR AALTO (1898 – 1976)

Hugo Alvar Hendrik Aalto was born in Kuortane, Finland on February 3, 1898. Alvar Aalto started early with his classical architecture and design career: from 1916 to 1921, at the age of 18, he studied architecture at the polytechnic in Helsinki. Afterwards he traveled across Europe for about two years. He returned with loads of new impressions and ideas and opened his own architect’s office in Jyväskylä.

Aino Marsio worked at his office, too and in 1924 Alvar Aalto married her. Early on Alvar Aalto and his wife experimented with curved forms made of wood and laminated wood. In 1929 Aalto met Otto Kornhone, the technical director of a furniture factory. Together with him Aalto conducted further experiments with his favourite material wood.

Two years later Alvar Aalto presented the revolutionary design of a wooden chair that was determined by curved forms: In 1931 it was the design classic „Paimio“ and in 1933 the three-legged stacking stool “L-Leg”.

In 1935 Aalto founded the company Artek together with some friends and his wife. In that way he managed to promote and sell his furniture and furnishing designs on his own, what then lead to Aalto’s breakthrough. In 1936 he designed the complete interior fittings of the top-class restaurant ”Savoy“ in Helsinki. The most famous piece of this project surely is the softly curved vase called “Savoy“.  

In 1937, vases and tableware were the main reason for Aalto to go to the world exposition in Paris where, as an architect, he also designed the whole Finnish exhibition stand.

Already in 1938, the year of Alvar Aalto’s 40th birthday, his works were presented in a big exhibition in the Museum of Modern Art in New York.

Aalto was definitely influenced by his time: Bauhaus, Functionalism, New Realism. Nevertheless, Alvar Aalto managed to create his own unique style by using his favourite material wood and renouncing the back then quite common steel tube.  

Aalto died as one of the most important Finnish designers and architects in Helsinki on May 11, 1976.