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Alvar Aalto

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Alvar Aalto

*  1898 Kuortane
† 1976 Helsinki


Alvar Aalto studied architecture between 1916 and 1921 at Helsinki Polytechnic. In 1923 Alvar Aalto opened his own architecture practice in in Jyväskyla. In 1924 he married Aino Marsio (1894-1949), who worked as a designer in his practice from 1925. In 1927 Alvar Aalto moved his practice to Turku and finally, in 1933, to Helsinki. Between 1943 and 1958 Alvar Aalto was chairman of the Finnish Architects' Association, SAFA. From 1946 until 1948 Alvar Aalto taught architecture at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, MA. Alvar Aalto's most important buildings include the Viipuri City Library(1927-1935) and the Convalescent Home for tuberculosis patients in Paimio (1928-1933), for which Alvar Aalto designed the entire interior and furnishings. Together with Aino, Alvar Aalto experimented with bentwood and laminated wood from 1925. From 1929 Aalto weitere Versuche continued his experiments with furniture with Otto Korhonen, technical director of a furniture factory near Turku. In the 1930s Alvar Aalto produced his revolutionary chair designs with curvilinear forms, including the 1931 "Paimio" chair and the 1933 "L-leg" stackable stool with L-shaped legs. In 1935 Alvar Aalto, Aino, and friends founded Artek, a company for marketing Alvar Aalto's furniture and other designs on a worldwide scale. The L-leg chair was followed by the "Y-Leg" (1946-1947) and the "Fan-Leg" (1954). In 1936 the Alvar Aalto practice designed the entire interior of the Savoy, a luxury restaurant in Helsinki, and for it the fluid curvilinear vase of the same name. By 1936 Alvar Aalto took part with vases and tableware in the design competition hosted by Iittala to select Finnish designed objects for the 1937 Paris Exposition. Alvar Aalto designed the Finnish Pavilions for the Paris Exposition and the 1939 New York World's Fair. In 1938 the Museum of Modern Art in New York mounted the first large Alvar Aalto retrospective, that would be followed by others in 1984 and 1998. Starting with the influence of the Arts and Crafts movement and International Modernism as well as a background in Finnish national Romanticism with its preference for natural materials, Alvar Aalto arrived at an interpretation of functionalism in his buildings and interior design objects that was distinctively his own. To Alvar Aalto, it was essential to "humanize architecture" (Aalto). Alvar Aalto viewed wood as a "form-inspiring, profoundly human material"; he refused to use artificial materials such as steel tubing for his furniture. Regarded as the most important Finnish architect of the 20th century, Alvar Aalto was also one of the leading designers of modern furniture and utilitarian objects.