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"Alvar Aalto" Tag


SCREEN 100


Saturday, October 27, 2018

The Presentation of ‘Screen 100’

In the Stedelijk Museum Base, a screen made of pinewood can be found, next to other Scandinavian design. The description tells the beholder some basic information of when the screen was designed, by who, and when this specific one was produced.The object was designed by Alvar Aalto, who was a Finnish architect and designer who was born on the 3rd of February 1898. He could be seen as one of the most influential in Scandinavian design of his time. When looking at the representation of his works in books, his architecture is most prominent, as those were very big projects he worked on for multiple years. For every building he made he wanted the environment to be functional, so naturally he also started making furniture. In books about Alvar Aalto there is often a mention of the Pinoy vase and the Paimio chair, but it’s difficult to find the more obscure ‘Screen 100’.

aaaaaaltoScreen 100 Alvar Aalto in Stedelijk Museum Base

However, looking for it on the internet, thousands of results pop up. Even though printed matter hardly mentions the less popular objects, this does not seem to be the problem online. Instead of information about the object itself, or biographical details about Aalto (or maybe even the theory behind his design) it seems to be mostly auction sites. Various auction houses have a broad range of prices, starting from around €1800,- till approximately €8000,-. The sites claim that their ‘Screen 100’ was produced very short after the design year, but never give actual information on the piece. Often, the screen is presented in a way that Alvar Aalto would never. Next to very decorative elements full of color, or with clashing styles. The only place on the internet that seems to accurately depict the aesthetic of his designs is Artek.fi , the company founded by Alvar Aalto himself to produce his products en masse. Still though, the site remains simplistic and does not give away too much information.

auction site aaltointernet screensaalto artek

To see how this object is represented in other media, a library needs to be visited. Specifically, the library of the Stedelijk Museum itself. In this library there are many books on art and design, but there are also documents on every piece in the museum, including ‘Screen 100’ by Alvar Aalto. Looking in their catalog, many books on Alvar Aalto mostly focus on his architecture again. However, there are some books specifically on his industrial design. Even then, the screen is not put into the spotlight. In one of the books about Aalto’s design, it only has a very small mention in the back of the book, where his designs are put in chronological order. Only a small symbol is present, no pictures of the screen are shown in the book. The depiction of this exact design item is very scarce, even in very specific books.

alvar aalto furniture bookartek design alvar aalto chronological order

Luckily, the museum library has more than just those books. A brown file storage box is brought out, containing various brochures and sale catalogs from Artek. There are folders and papers from the fifties, nineties and early two thousands that contain every object sold by Artek. These are one of the few printed documents that show ‘Screen 100’. Besides the catalogs, the library also has the complete object description on hand, which is a file including all known details about the specific screen that they have in the museum. Details like the manufacturer, the size, the number of slats, and even how the object is transported are included. In this description it is mentioned that the screen was used in the museum, before it was put in the collection of the Stedelijk Base. Pictures show that the screen was used to block entryways while exhibitions were built. This means that the object was also represented in a very practical context.
artekartek catalogus spread alvar aalto designscreen 100 alvar aalto volledige objectbeschrijving stedelijkscreen 100 aalto stedelijk

The differences of how the media presents this object lie in the frequency and detail of information. Printed matter available in regular libraries often focus mostly on the more iconic, time consuming efforts of Alvar Aalto, as his architecture is often more prominently shown than his design. If the design does have a mention, it is mostly the more popular things that will be mentioned. This also holds true for more specific books on his design. One of the few printed matters that do mention the screen are very functional such as inventories or catalogs, where the context is about selling a product, instead of informing the reader about various movements or ideas. The price is often listed right next to the object. The same holds true for the information found on the internet, where auctioning sites give a very simple description on the object. However, the online results show a variety of pictures of the same object, in different combinations and settings, whereas the printed catalogs often go with the same pictures and symbols. While the museum library has one of the most accurate and detailed descriptions for the object, one can only understand it fully by seeing it firsthand. Even then your understanding of it can depend on the context in which you see it, as the screen can be represented among other furniture of Scandinavian designers in the context of a presentation in a museum, or seeing it functional, as an everyday item, where you are more likely to glance over it.

Yet, after a deep dive into the designs of Alvar Aalto it seems impossible to glance over it and not admire the simplistic beauty that is inherent to ‘Screen 100’.

Alvar Aalto, New wave of curved wood


Friday, October 26, 2018

Nuova-tuoli_Alvar-Aalto002-1

Alvar Aalto was born 1898 in Finland that was ruled by the Russian federation. Aalto’s generation was heavily influenced by National romanticism and the “fennoman”-movement which had the goal to create finnish culture, art and ultimately a independent nation. Finnish national romantic style was very decorative and even complicated, reminiscent of art nouveau. Aalto’s work seem to be a comment or a reaction to this atmosphere.

Aalto graduated as an architect in 1921, when Finland had been independent only for few years. The time for dusty hardwood vitrines, and massive decorative stone buildings where fading to the background. Aalto was on the verge of a new time, and it showed in his designs. In his early career there where a few very influential projects, and the Paimio sanatorium was one of them It was one of the first buildings where he designed everything regarding this building, the whole experience.

paimio sanatorium

paimio sanatorium

alvar aalto_paimion parantola_mäntymetsä_paimio tuoliIMG-5670

What is it like to sit in a chair, and what do you see when you look out of the window. Is the position comfortable, or the material pleasant? And of course, what does the chair look like when you are looking at it.  The lounge chair 31/42 was designed in 1931 for the common areas of Paimio sanatorium, and received all sorts of publicity after that since it was a part of the finnish pavilion in Paris world exhibition in 1937, and after that was exhibited in New York MoMA in 1938. Today it is one of the most iconic designs from him.

As I started researching this chair I mostly found auction sites selling this chair between 4,000-8,000e most of them had the same description text about Aalto and the curved wood.when I searched in finnish I found a bit more. The auction sites, Aalto foundation and Aalto  museum, on top of that I found a pile of news websites asking “Is your grandma’s chair worth thousands of euros?”-or something similar. Internet research gave actually very limited information on the actual chair.

Next I looked in the Rietveld Library and found 1 book regarding Aalto’s early career and wich mentioned this chair and was from 1965. This book already gave me a lot more information regarding the making of the chair, how it relates to other designs from him at the time, and what is the mindstate in which Aalto actually made this chair, what is the so called “philosophy” behind it. The curved wood was a specific asset wich was also emphasised on internet about this chair, since it is the most unique feature in it.In  this book there is a quote that explained his view from me very clearly:

“In order to achieve practical goals and valid aesthetic forms in connection with architecture, one can not always start from a rational, technical standpoint – perhaps even ever. Human imagination must have room to unfold. This was usually the case with my experiments in wood. Purely playful from with no practical function whatsoever”-Alvar and Aino Aalto

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Final step in my research for now, was the stedelijk library. My goal was to find original advertisements and maybe a pamflette of the chair in New york MoMA. I did not find original advertisements from the 30’s, but i did find artek publications that the museum had collected and a magazine MoMA had published on Aalto’s Furniture and glass designs. There were also two books which were very useful for this research a book about aalto from 1938, showing how this chair was displayed and viewed at the time. The Other book was called Alvar Aalto furniture, and this book showed the evolution of his chairs as well some sketches and experiments on the curved wood on this chair.

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IMG-5681 MoMA magazine

 

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IMG-5671 written in 1938

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My research is not over yet. My next step is to search finnishpublic libraries and Aalto university department of design’s library and compare the information to the one I collected in the Netherlands. After that I have to go to jyväskylä where the Alvar Aalto museum is, and try to find some original finnish publications of this chair there, since they could not do much for me on the phone.

Where order is born is born wellbeing.


Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Alvar Aalto, one of Finland’s most famous people who reshaped architecture and furniture of public buildings on the basis of functionality and organic relationship between man, nature and buildings, is now called the “Father of Modernism” in Scandinavian countries.

 

He was born Hugo Alvar Henrik Aalto, on February 3, 1898, in Kuortane, Finland (at that time Finland was part of Russian Empire). He was the first of three children. His father, J. H. Aalto, was a government surveyor. His mother, Selma Hackestedt, was of Swedish ancestry, she died in 1903.

Hence, Hugo Alvar Henrik Aalto was educated a lot by his grandfathers. His grandfathers were both very close to nature, one of them was a forest guard. Alvar Aalto has a child use to play a lot in the forest. It was obviously through him that the outdoor world, particularly the forest became so important in Aalto work. The forest with his towering tree trunks and his various rock shapes is a world a constant changing forms which inspired Aalto a lot. Aalto probably found in nature the basic geometrics patterns for his architecture and furnitures.  The forest thought him also that nature is a sensitive ecological system in which men must find his place.

Aalto’s relationship is pretty clear according to the paintings he did as a child. He hesitated few years either to become a painter or an architect. According to his saying, he decided at the age of nine that he wanted to become an architect.

Aalto has been educated in the idea of National Romanticism, the Finnish version of Art Nouveau. Aalto rejected it, such as pretty much his whole generation. However he took one important feature from his predecessors : the idea that his creation should perfectly fit into nature.

Around 1920 a softer version of the strict modernist aesthetic emerged in Scandinavia, characterized by the use of (curved) wood in combination with shapes, colours, and decorations inspired by nature. The resulting furniture arose from the ambition that design should offer both beauty and functionality, and be affordable to everyone.

Aalto rejected a lot of furnitures of his time, he wanted to find a material that makes chairs pleasant to sit in. A lot of Aalto’s furnitures were also inspired by the shapes of nature. He often solved practical problems with abstract experimentation of forms with wood. Aalto experimented with bending a bunch of wood to create chairs.

Through experimentation with wood Aalto discovers specific properties which could be useful of men. For instance, in the interior of the Viipuri Library Aalto created rooms inspired by nature which specific functions. Such architectural solutions as a sunken reading-well, free-flowing ceilings and cylindrical skylights, first tested in Viipuri, would regularly appear in Aalto’s works. Aalto differed from the first generation of modernist architects (such as Walter Gropius and Le Corbusier) in his predilection for natural materials: in this design, « wood was first introduced into an otherwise modernist setting of concrete, white stucco, glass, and steel ».

Aalto’s work with wood, was obviously influenced by early Scandinavian architects; however, his experiments and departure from the norm brought attention to his ability to make wood do things not previously done. He was one of the first architect/designer to be able to find a way to bent wood in order to create theses beautiful organic shapes. Aalto studied architecture at Helsinki University of Technology, however during a large part of his career Aalto created a lot of furniture. Like Le Corbusier, Aalto considered that furnitures and architecture should be a collective and cohesive ensemble that creates order. His experimental method has been influenced by his meetings with various members of the Bauhaus design school.

After traveling through Europe, he was exposed to International Style and soon adopted the natural materials and organic forms of this approach into his aesthetic.

Beauty is the harmony of purpose and form.


Thursday, February 15, 2018

Alvor Aalto : Screen 100

Skærmbillede 2018-01-18 kl. 16.17.03

Alvor Aalto was born in 1898. Most of his childhood and youth he lived in Jyväskylä, a town in the center of Finland, surrounded by the big finish nature. Thousand of lakes and woods with millions of birch trees, must have influenced the young Aalto.
In his work nature is always present, either in the organic shape of the products or the choice of materials. And Finland is present, one can say that Finland is with Aalto and that Aalto is with Finland.

Aalto was both an architect and a designer. It is very obvious in one of his early works, the Paimio Sanatorium. In addition to the new and functional building he also designed all interior for the building. Today the Paimio Chair is probably the most well-known Aalto chair from that time. It was designed for the patients, functionality and mass production was important issues, together with the organic shape it all makes the chair an icon of good design.

Skærmbillede 2018-01-18 kl. 16.17.48

“Beauty is the harmony of purpose and form.”  Alvor Aalto 1928.

Alvor Aalto has had an immense impact on our perception of Scandinavian design today.
In 1935 he founded the company Artek together with his wife Aino and Nils-Gustave Hahl and Maire Gullichsen. The company should handle the sale of Alto furniture, but they wanted to take it further. They saw themselves as promoters of “Rational living and interior Design” (as they write in ‘the Artek Manifesto’). In other words they wanted to educate people and teach about the ”good life”.

All over Europe design changed or evolved in to something more functional, modern and lighter. There was a new way of thinking, new production possibilities and materials. Just think of the Bauhaus movement in Germany. In Aalto’s design he combines that thinking with natural materials and organic shapes.

It is evident in the screen 100 from 1936. The construction is so simple. Wooden sticks assembled with a metal wire. When the screen is used as a room divider or a simple screen it forms different organic shapes.
The repetition of the vertical wooden sticks leads the minds to forests with beautiful slender birch trees. An effect Alvor Alto also used, when he worked with different expressions on the facade of his buildings. That can be seen on the picture of the finish pavilion which Aalto made for the world exhibition in New York in 1939.

Skærmbillede 2018-01-18 kl. 16.17.31

The screen has been sold since late 1930s. At the Stedelijk, I found it attractive and it caught my attention at first because of the simplicity and round shape.

On the attached picture it can be seen in the Artek Showroom in Helsinki in the late 1930s.  Today it is still for sale in the Artek Showroom together with the Paimio Chair and many other Aalto products.

Even though Alvor Aalto made fantastic design he still wanted the user to influence the design.

 “ A standardized object should not be a finished product, but on the contrary be made so that man and all the individual laws controlling him supplement its form.” Alvar Aalto 1935 

The Screen is a standardized object, but the user is the one who forms it.

Skærmbillede 2018-01-18 kl. 16.17.18

A small conclusion:

Why did I try to build the screen, how was it and what happened on the way?

At first when I saw this screen, my first thought was that I wanted it at home. It looked so simple and gentle in it’s look. How it stood there and divided the exhibition with its calmness and simpleness. But still what I was fascinated by, was that it was also simple to make, it is basically just sticks put together and then the shape makes it stand.

But such an iconic and great design object needs time to make. And often with design and especially Scandinavian design, simple stuff takes the longest.

Therefore I decided to build a model myself, I wanted to try and put myself in the making and designing of this. It was fun, I made a small 1:10 scale model

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The small model didn’t give me any trouble that I didn’t expect. It was simple and easy and a very honest object. I think If I scaled it up I would have had more trouble and I would have been confronted with some other problems.

But all in all it was clear for me after trying to make a model and looking into the design and production of this, that this object is very honest.

It is exactly what you see.

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