As the early 20th century unfolded, a great many furniture designers came out of the woodworks as the tools, machinery and materials available changed and inspired an entire industry. One of these early designers was Alvar Aalto, a Finnish architect and designer from Kuortane. Just as the rest of the world was exploding in creativity and industry, so was Finland.
Aalto was known for a meticulous yet humanistic approach to modern design. After completing school at the Helsinki University of Technology in 1921, Aalto went to Jyvaskyla to start working as an architect and furniture designer.
As one of the top influencers in a modern furniture movement in Scandinavia, Aalto had works criss-crossing the country. Aalto was also extremely well known for his glass-blowing work and it is his legendary designs that still live on today. The Aalto vase has earned international acclaim after its initial presentation in 1937 at the Pair World Exhibition.
The vase, also known as the Savoy vase, was originally made with a wood base in the center that was burned away as the modern vase took its shape.
In addition to the vase and an expansive volume of architectural work in Sweden, Aalto and his first wife, architect Aino Marsio, were partners and traveled regularly to Italy as well to design modern projects. In 1935, the pair launched Artek, a Finnish furniture company.
Mimicking current trends worldwide, Aalto and Marsio focused their designs on form, function and art now that modern manufacturing and new design technologies had been introduced, allowing modern furniture designers to create completely new looks for beds, chairs, tables and more.
Aalto was always experimenting with new materials, and one his better creations, the Paimio chair came from this experimenting. A well-known chair Aaolto designed was the Paimio chair, created for tuberculosis patients at Paimio Sanatorium to sit in for long hours at a time. Rumors say Marcel Breuer’s Wassilly chair had some influence in the design despite the lack of metal used in his projects. Now the original chair has found a home in the Museum of Modern Art in New York.
Another popular chair Aalto was famous for was the Tank Chair, an armchair made out of wood and reindeer fur. Plush, low to the ground, this was one of Aalto’s key products he designed.
He was known to have said this during a London speech in 1957: “We should work for simple, good, undecorated things” and he continues, “but things which are in harmony with the human being and organically suited to the little man in the street.”
Also, a top architecture award was also named after Aalto who was known for his ingenious modern architectural designs, the Alvar Aalto Medal. He also now has a Finnish university being named after him, Aalto University.
Aalto is likely heavily commemorated because he really worked to get at the heart of a culture with his innovative designs, reaching the soul of a community that was joining the world in an Industrial Revolution never seen before. He was also very close with another major designer Le Corbusier in Italy.
Key architectural projects outside his modern furniture designs includes hospitals, libraries, the Defence Corps Building, a theatre, town centre, art museum all sorts of major community buildings felt Alvar Aalto’s influence as he created the architectural designs for them. His influence spread across Finland, and even influenced design world-wide as he created a vision that embraced humanity and modern design.