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"Alvar Aalto" Tag

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.

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