Alvar Aalto

Hugo Alvar Henrik Aalto (pronounced [ˈhuɡo ˈɑlʋɑr ˈhenrik ˈɑːlto]; 3 February 1898 – 11 May 1976) was a Finnish architect and designer.[1] His work includes architecture, furniture, textiles and glassware, as well as sculptures and paintings, though he never regarded himself as an artist, seeing painting and sculpture as "branches of the tree whose trunk is architecture."[2] Aalto's early career runs in parallel with the rapid economic growth and industrialization of Finland during the first half of the twentieth century and many of his clients were industrialists; among these were the Ahlström-Gullichsen family.[3] The span of his career, from the 1920s to the 1970s, is reflected in the styles of his work, ranging from Nordic Classicism of the early work, to a rational International Style Modernism during the 1930s to a more organic modernist style from the 1940s onwards. What is typical for his entire career, however, is a concern for design as a Gesamtkunstwerk, a total work of art; whereby he – together with his first wife Aino Aalto – would design not just the building, but give special treatments to the interior surfaces and design furniture, lamps, and furnishings and glassware. His furniture designs are considered Scandinavian Modern, in the sense of a concern for materials, especially wood, and simplification but also technical experimentation, which led to him receiving patents for various manufacturing processes, such as bent wood.[4] The Alvar Aalto Museum, designed by Aalto himself, is located in what is regarded as his home city Jyväskylä.[5]

Alvar Aalto
Alvar and Elissa Aalto
Alvar and Elissa Aalto in the 1950s
Hugo Alvar Henrik Aalto

3 February 1898
Died11 May 1976 (aged 78)
Helsinki, Finland
Spouse(s)Aino Marsio
(m. 1925–49; her death)
Elissa Mäkiniemi
(m. 1952–76; his death)
AwardsPrince Eugen Medal (1954)
RIBA Gold Medal (1957)
AIA Gold Medal (1963)
BuildingsPaimio Sanatorium
Säynätsalo Town Hall
Viipuri Library
Villa Mairea
Baker House
Finlandia Hall
ProjectsHelsinki City Centre
DesignSavoy Vase
Paimio Chair



Alvar Aalto portrayed on a stamp published in 1976
Jyväskylän Kaupunginteatteri Aalto-laatta
The signature of Alvar Aalto on the wall of Jyväskylä's theatre building.
Auditorium of the Viipuri Municipal Library in the 1930s.
Aalto studio
Alvar Aalto Studio, Helsinki (1954–56)
Studio Aalto
Alvar Aalto Studio, Helsinki (1954–56)
University of Jyväskylä main Building
Main Building of the Jyväskylä University (1955)
Heilig Geist Kirche Wolfsburg Alvar Aalto 1958 62 photo by Christian Gänshirt
Church of the Holy Ghost, Wolfsburg (1958-62)[6]

Hugo Alvar Henrik Aalto was born in Kuortane, Finland.[7] His father, Johan Henrik Aalto, was a Finnish-speaking land-surveyor and his mother, Selma Matilda "Selly" (née Hackstedt) was a Swedish-speaking postmistress. When Aalto was 5 years old, the family moved to Alajärvi, and from there to Jyväskylä in Central Finland.

He studied at the Jyväskylä Lyceum school, where he completed his basic education in 1916, and took drawing lessons from a local artist named Jonas Heiska. In 1916, he then enrolled to study architecture at the Helsinki University of Technology. His studies were interrupted by the Finnish Civil War, which he fought in. He fought on the side of the White Army and fought at the Battle of Länkipohja and the Battle of Tampere.[8]

He built his first piece of architecture while still a student, a house for his parents, at Alajärvi.[9] Afterwards, he continued his education, graduating in 1921. In the summer of 1922 he began his official military service, finishing at the Hamina reserve officer training school, and was promoted to reserve second lieutenant in June 1923.[10]

In 1920, while still a student, Aalto made his first trip abroad, travelling via Stockholm to Gothenburg, where he even briefly found work with the architect Arvid Bjerke.[11] In 1922, he accomplished his first independent piece at the Industrial Exposition in Tampere.[9] In 1923, he returned to Jyväskylä, where he opened his first architectural office under the name 'Alvar Aalto, Architect and Monumental Artist'. At that same time he also wrote articles for the Jyväskylä newspaper Sisä-Suomi under the pseudonym Remus.[10] During this time, he designed a number of small single-family houses in Jyväskylä, and the office's workload steadily increased.

On October 6, 1924, Aalto married architect Aino Marsio; their honeymoon journey to Italy was Aalto's first trip there, though Aino had previously made a study trip there.[12] The latter trip together sealed an intellectual bond with the culture of the Mediterranean region that was to remain important to Aalto for the rest of his life.

On their return, they continued with a number of local projects, notably the Jyväskylä Worker's Club, which incorporated a number of motifs which they had studied during their trip, most notably the decorations of the Festival hall modelled on the Rucellai Sepulchre in Florence by Leon Battista Alberti. Following winning the architecture competition for the Southwest Finland Agricultural Cooperative building in 1927 the Aaltos moved their office to Turku. They had made contact with the city's most progressive architect, Erik Bryggman, already before moving, and they then began collaborating with him, most notably on the Turku Fair of 1928-29. Aalto's biographer, Göran Schildt, claimed that Bryggman was the only architect with whom Aalto cooperated as an equal.[13] With increasing works in the Finnish capital, the Aaltos' office moved again in 1933 to Helsinki.[14]

The Aaltos designed and built a joint house-office (1935–36) for themselves in Munkkiniemi, Helsinki, but later (1954–56) had a purpose-built office erected in the same neighbourhood – nowadays the former is a "home museum" and the latter the premises of the Alvar Aalto Academy. In 1926, the young Aaltos designed and had built for themselves a summer cottage in Alajärvi, Villa Flora.


Aino Aalto died of cancer in 1949. Aino and Alvar Aalto had two children, a daughter, Johanna "Hanni", Mrs Alanen (born 1925), and a son, Hamilkar Aalto (born 1928). In 1952, Aalto married architect Elissa Mäkiniemi (died 1994), who had been working as an assistant in his office.

In 1952, he designed and built a summer cottage, the so-called Experimental House, for himself and his new wife in Muuratsalo in Central Finland.[15] Alvar Aalto died on 11 May 1976, in Helsinki, and is buried in the Hietaniemi cemetery in Helsinki. His wife and the office employees continued the works of the office which were still in progress. In 1978 the Museum of Finnish Architecture in Helsinki arranged a major exhibition of Aalto's works.

Architecture career

Early career: classicism

Although he is sometimes regarded as among the first and most influential architects of Nordic modernism, a closer examination of the historical facts reveals that Aalto (while a pioneer in Finland) closely followed and had personal contacts with other pioneers in Sweden, in particular Gunnar Asplund[16][17] and Sven Markelius.[18] What they and many others of that generation in the Nordic countries had in common was that they started off from a classical education and were first designing classical architecture, though what historians now call Nordic Classicism[19] – a style that had been a reaction to the previous dominant style of National Romanticism – before moving, in the late 1920s, towards Modernism.

Upon returning to Jyväskylä in 1923 to establish his own architect's office, Aalto busied himself with a number of single-family homes, all designed in the Nordic Classicism style, such as the manor-like house for his mother's cousin Terho Manner in Töysa in 1923, a summer villa for the Jyväskylä chief constable in 1923 and the Alatalo farmhouse in Tarvaala in 1924. During this period he also completed his first public buildings, the Jyväskylä Workers' Club in 1925, the Jyväskylä Defence Corps building in 1926 and the Seinäjoki Defence Corp building in 1924–29. He entered several architectural competitions for prestigious state public buildings, both in Finland and abroad, including the two competitions for the Finnish Parliament building in 1923 and 1924, the extension to the University of Helsinki in 1931, and the building to house the League of Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, in 1926–27.

Furthermore, this was the period when Aalto was most prolific in his writings, with articles for professional journals and newspapers. Among his most well-known essays from this period are "Urban culture" (1924),[20] "Temple baths on Jyväskylä ridge" (1925),[21] "Abbé Coignard's sermon" (1925),[22] and "From doorstep to living room" (1926).[23]

Baker House, MIT, Cambridge, Massachusetts
Facade of Baker House on the Charles River
Helsinki University of Technology auditorium
The main auditorium of Aalto University in Otaniemi, Finland (1949–66)
Aalto cultural house
House of Culture, Helsinki
Library Wolfsburg Alvar Aalto photo by Christian Gänshirt
Cultural Center Wolfsburg (1958-62)[24]
Finlandia A-Wiki
Finlandia Hall (1962–71)
Aalto-Theater 02
The Aalto-Theater opera house in Essen, Germany

Early career: functionalism

The shift in Aalto's design approach from classicism to modernism is epitomised by the Viipuri Library in Vyborg (1927–35), which went through a transformation from an originally classical competition entry proposal to the completed high-modernist building. Yet his humanistic approach is in full evidence in the library: the interior displays natural materials, warm colours, and undulating lines. Due to problems over financing and a change of site, the Viipuri Library project lasted eight years, and during that same time he also designed the Standard Apartment Building (1928-29) in Turku, Turun Sanomat Building (1929–30) and Paimio Sanatorium (1929–32). A number of factors heralded Aalto's shift towards modernism: on a personal level, Aalto's increased familiarization of international trends especially after travelling throughout Europe, but in terms of completed projects it was the client of the Standard Apartment Building giving Aalto the opportunity to experiment with concrete prefabrication, the cutting-edge Corbusian form language of the Turun Sanomat Building, and these were then carried forward both in the Paimio Sanatorium and in the ongoing design for the library. Although the Turun Sanomat Building and Paimio Sanatorium are comparatively pure modernist works, they too carried the seeds of his questioning of such an orthodox modernist approach and a move to a more daring, synthetic attitude. It has been pointed out that the planning principle for Paimio Sanatorium - the splayed wings - was indebted to the Zonnestraal Sanatorium (1925-31) by Jan Duiker, which Aalto visited while it was still under construction.[25] But while these early Functionalist works by Aalto bear hallmarks of influences from Le Corbusier, Walter Gropius and other key modernist figures of central Europe, in all these buildings Aalto nevertheless started to show his individuality in a departure from such norms with the introduction of organic references.

Through Sven Markelius, Aalto became a member of the Congres Internationaux d'Architecture Moderne (CIAM), attending the second congress in Frankfurt in 1929 and the fourth congress in Athens in 1933, where he established a close friendship with László Moholy-Nagy, Sigfried Giedion and Philip Morton Shand. It was during this time that he followed closely the work of the main driving force behind the new modernism, Le Corbusier, and visited him in his Paris office several times in the following years.

It was not until the completion of the Paimio Sanatorium (1932) and Viipuri Library (1935) that Aalto first achieved world attention in architecture. His reputation grew in the USA following the invitation to hold a retrospective exhibition of his works at the MOMA in New York in 1938, which was also the first time he visited the US. The significance of the exhibition - which afterwards went on a 12-city tour of the country - lies in the fact that he was only the second ever architect - after Le Corbusier - to have a solo exhibition at the museum. His reputation grew in the USA following the critical reception of his design for the Finnish Pavilion at the 1939 New York World's Fair, described by Frank Lloyd Wright as a "work of genius".[26] It could be said that Aalto's international reputation was sealed with his inclusion in the second edition of Sigfried Giedion's influential book on Modernist architecture, Space, Time and Architecture: The growth of a new tradition (1949), in which Aalto received more attention than any other Modernist architect, including Le Corbusier. In his analysis of Aalto, Giedion gave primacy to qualities that depart from direct functionality, such as mood, atmosphere, intensity of life and even national characteristics, declaring that "Finland is with Aalto wherever he goes".

Mid career: experimentation

During the 1930s Alvar spent some time experimenting with laminated wood, making sculptures, and abstract reliefs, characterized by irregular curved forms. Utilizing this knowledge he was able to solve technical problems concerning the flexibility of wood and also of working out spatial issues in his designs.[8] Aalto's early experiments with wood and his move away from a purist modernism would be tested in built form with the commission to design Villa Mairea (1939) in Noormarkku, the luxury home of the young industrialist couple Harry and Maire Gullichsen. It was Maire Gullichsen who acted as the main client, and she worked closely not only with Alvar but also Aino Aalto on the design, inspiring them to be more daring in their work. The original design was to include a private art gallery, but this was never built. The building forms a U-shape around a central inner "garden" the central feature of which is a kidney-shaped swimming pool. Adjacent to the pool is a sauna executed in a rustic style, alluding to both Finnish and Japanese precedents. The design of the house is a synthesis of numerous stylistic influences, from traditional Finnish vernacular to purist modernism, as well as influences from English and Japanese architecture. While the house is clearly intended for a wealthy family, Aalto nevertheless argued that it was also an experiment that would prove useful in the design of mass housing.[27]

His increased fame led to offers and commissions outside Finland. In 1941 he accepted an invitation as a visiting professor to Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the USA. Because of the Second World War, he returned to Finland to direct the Reconstruction Office. After the war, he returned to MIT, where he designed the student dormitory Baker House, completed in 1949.[28] The dormitory lay along the Charles River and its undulating form provided maximum view and ventilation for each resident.[29] This building was the first building of Aalto's redbrick period. Originally used in Baker House to signify the Ivy League university tradition, on his return to Finland Aalto used it in a number of key buildings, in particular, in several of the buildings in the new Helsinki University of Technology campus (starting in 1950), Säynätsalo Town Hall (1952), Helsinki Pensions Institute (1954), Helsinki House of Culture (1958), as well as in his own summer house, the so-called Experimental House in Muuratsalo (1957).

In the fifties Aalto immersed himself in his sculpting, be it with wood, bronze, marble, or mixed media. Among the notable works from this period is the memorial to the Battle of Suomussalmi (1960); located on the battlefield, it consists of a leaning bronze pillar on a pedestal.[8]

Mature career: monumentalism

The early 1960s and 1970s (up until his death in 1976) were marked by key works in Helsinki, in particular the huge town plan for the void in centre of Helsinki adjacent to Töölö Bay and the vast railway yards, and marked on the edges by significant buildings such as the National Museum and the main railway station, both by Eliel Saarinen. In his town plan Aalto proposed a line of separate marble-clad buildings fronting the bay which would house various cultural institutions, including a concert hall, opera, museum of architecture and headquarters for the Finnish Academy. The scheme also extended into the Kamppi district with a series of tall office blocks. Aalto first presented his scheme in 1961, but it went through various modifications during the early 1960s. Only two fragments of the overall plan were ever realized: the Finlandia Hall concert hall (1976) fronting Töölö Bay, and an office building in the Kamppi district for the Helsinki Electricity Company (1975). The Miesian formal language of geometric grids employed in the buildings was also used by Aalto for other sites in Helsinki, including the Enso-Gutzeit building (1962), the Academic Bookstore (1962) and the SYP Bank building (1969).

Following Aalto's death in 1976 his office continued to operate under the direction of his widow, Elissa, completing works already to some extent designed. These works include the Jyväskylä City Theatre and Essen opera house. Since the death of Elissa Aalto the office has continued to operate as the Alvar Aalto Academy, giving advice on the restoration of Aalto buildings and organising the vast archive material.

Furniture career

Wolfsonian-FIU Museum - IMG 8234
Paimio chair

Whereas Aalto was famous for his architecture, his furniture designs were well thought of and are still popular today. He studied Josef Hoffmann and the Wiener Werkstätte, and for a period of time, worked under Eliel Saarinen.[4] He also gained inspiration from Gebrüder Thonet.[4] During the late 1920s and 1930s he, working closely with Aino Aalto, also focused a lot of his energy on furniture design, partly due to the decision to design much of the individual furniture pieces and lamps for the Paimio Sanatorium. Of particular significance was the experimentation in bent plywood chairs, most notably the so-called Paimio chair, which had been designed for the sitting tuberculosis patient. The Aaltos, together with visual arts promoter Maire Gullichsen and art historian Nils-Gustav Hahl founded the Artek company in 1935, ostensibly to sell Aalto products but also other imported products.[30] He became the first furniture designer to use the cantilever principle in chair design using wood.[4]


Aalto's awards included the Prince Eugen Medal in 1954, the Royal Gold Medal for Architecture from the Royal Institute of British Architects in 1957 and the Gold Medal from the American Institute of Architects in 1963. He was elected a Foreign Honorary Member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1957.[31] He also was a member of the Academy of Finland, and was its president from 1963 to 1968. From 1925 to 1956 he was a member of the Congrès International d'Architecture Moderne. In 1960 he received an honorary doctorate at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU).[32]


Aalto's career spans the changes in style from (Nordic Classicism) to purist International Style Modernism to a more personal, synthetic and idiosyncratic Modernism. Aalto's wide field of design activity ranges from the large scale of city planning and architecture to interior design, furniture and glassware design and painting. It has been estimated that during his entire career Aalto designed over 500 individual buildings, approximately 300 of which were built, the vast majority of which are in Finland. He also has a few buildings in France, Germany, Italy and the USA.[33]

Aalto's work with wood, was 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. His techniques in the way he cut the beech tree, for example, and also his ability to use plywood as structural and aesthetic. Other examples include the rough-hewn vertical placement of logs at his pavilion at the Lapua expo, looking similar to a medieval barricade, at the orchestra platform at turku and the Paris expo at the World Fair, he used varying sizes and shapes of planks. Also at Paris and at Villa Mairea he utilized birch boarding in a vertical arrangement. Also his famous undulating walls and ceilings made of red pine.[34] In his roofing, he created massive spans (155-foot at the covered statium at Otaniemi) all without tie rods. His stairway at Villa Mairea, he evokes feelings of a natural forest by binding beech wood with withes into columns.[35]

Aalto claimed that his paintings were not made as individual artworks but as part of his process of architectural design, and many of his small-scale "sculptural" experiments with wood led to later larger architectural details and forms. These experiments also led to a number of patents: for example, he invented a new form of laminated bent-plywood furniture in 1932 (which was patented in 1933).[1] His experimental method had been influenced by his meetings with various members of the Bauhaus design school, especially László Moholy-Nagy, whom he first met in 1930. Aalto's furniture was exhibited in London in 1935, to great critical acclaim, and to cope with the consumer demand Aalto, together with his wife Aino, Maire Gullichsen and Nils-Gustav Hahl founded the company Artek that same year. Aalto glassware (Aino as well as Alvar) is manufactured by Iittala.

Aalto's 'High Stool' and 'Stool E60' (manufactured by Artek) are currently used in Apple Stores across the world to serve as seating for customers. Finished in black lacquer, the stools are used to seat customers at the 'Genius Bar' and also in other areas of the store at times when seating is required for a product workshop or special event. Aalto was also influential in bringing modern art to the knowledge of the Finnish people, in particular the work of his friends, Alexander Milne Calder and Fernand Léger.[8]

Significant buildings

KUNSTEN Aalborg 2006
KUNSTEN Museum of Modern Art Aalborg, Denmark (1958–72)
Paolo Monti - Servizio fotografico (Vergato, 1980) - BEIC 6353784
Church of Santa Maria Assunta, Riola of Vergato, Italy, designed in 1966 and built 1975-1978. Photo by Paolo Monti, 1980.
Aalto table and chairs1
Table and chairs designed by Alvar Aalto
Aalto Teewagen
Tea cart (tea trolley)
Alvar Alto - Tank Chair (Armchair 400)
Armchair 400 with reindeer fur

Furniture and glassware

  • 1932: Paimio Chair
  • 1933: Three-legged stacking Stool 60
  • 1933: Four-legged Stool E60
  • 1935-6: Armchair 404 (a/k/a/ Zebra Tank Chair)
  • 1939: Armchair 406
  • 1954: Floor lamp A805
  • 1959: Floor lamp A810


  • "God created paper for the purpose of drawing architecture on it. Everything else is at least for me an abuse of paper." Alvar Aalto, Sketches, 1978, 104.
  • "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." Alvar Aalto, speech in London 1957.

Critique of Aalto's architecture

As already mentioned, Aalto's international reputation was sealed with his inclusion in the second edition of Sigfried Giedion's influential book on Modernist architecture, Space, Time and Architecture: The growth of a new tradition (1949), in which Aalto received more attention than any other Modernist architect, including Le Corbusier. In his analysis of Aalto, Giedion gave primacy to qualities that depart from direct functionality, such as mood, atmosphere, intensity of life and even national characteristics, declaring that "Finland is with Aalto wherever he goes". However, a few more recent architecture critics and historians have questioned Aalto's position of influence in the canonic history. Italian Marxist architecture historians Manfredo Tafuri and Francesco Dal Co put forward the viewpoint that Aalto's "historical significance has perhaps been rather exaggerated; with Aalto we are outside of the great themes that have made the course of contemporary architecture so dramatic. The qualities of his works have a meaning only as masterful distractions, not subject to reproduction outside the remote reality in which they have their roots."[51] Their viewpoint was propounded by their own priority given to urbanism, seeing Aalto as an anti-urban, and thus consequently disparaging what they regarded as peripheral non-urban areas of the world: "Essentially his architecture is not appropriate to urban typologies." Similarly concerned with the appropriateness of Aalto's form language, at the other end of the political spectrum, American postmodernist critic Charles Jencks made a claim for the need for buildings to signify meaning; however, he then lifted out Aalto's Pensions Institute building as an example of what he termed Aalto's 'soft paternalism': "Conceived as a fragmented mass to break up the feeling of bureaucracy, it succeeds all too well in being humane and killing the pensioner with kindness. The forms are familiar red brick and ribbon-strip windows broken by copper and bronze elements – all carried through with a literal-mindedness that borders on the soporific."[52] But also during Aalto's lifetime he faced critique from his fellow architects in Finland, most notably Kirmo Mikkola and Juhani Pallasmaa; by the last decade of his life Aalto's work was seen as idiosyncratic and individualistic, when the opposing tendencies of rationalism and constructivism – often championed under left-wing politics – argued for anonymous virtually non-aesthetic architecture. Mikkola wrote of Aalto's late works: "Aalto has moved to his present baroque line..."[53]


Aalto has been commemorated in a number of ways:

  • Alvar Aalto is the eponym of the Alvar Aalto Medal, now considered one of world architecture's most prestigious awards.
  • Aalto was featured in the 50 mk note in the last series of the Finnish markka (before its replacement by the Euro in 2002).
  • The centenary of Aalto's birth in 1998 was marked in Finland not only by several books and exhibitions, but also by the promotion of specially bottled red and white Aalto Wine and a specially designed cupcake.
  • In 1976, the year of his death, Aalto was commemorated on a Finnish postage stamp.
  • Piazza Alvar Aalto, a square named after Aalto, can be found in the Porta Nuova business district of Milan, Italy
  • Aalto University, a Finnish university formed by merging Helsinki University of Technology, Helsinki School of Economics and TaiK in 2010, is named after Alvar Aalto.
  • An Alvar Aallon katu (Alvar Aalto Street) can be found in five different Finnish cities: Helsinki, Jyväskylä, Oulu, Kotka and Seinäjoki.

See also


  1. ^ a b Chilvers 2004, p. 1
  2. ^ Enckell 1998, p. 32
  3. ^ Anon 2013
  4. ^ a b c d Boyce 1985, p. 1
  5. ^ Alvar Aalto Museum 2011
  6. ^ Heilig-Geist-Kirchengemeinde bei, retrieved 27 February 2018.
  7. ^ Thorne 1984, p. 1
  8. ^ a b c d Pelkonen 2009, p. 201
  9. ^ a b Labò 1968, p. 1
  10. ^ a b Heporauta 1999, p. 10
  11. ^ Weston 1997, p. 20
  12. ^ Suominen-Kokkonen 2007, p. 18
  13. ^ Schildt 1994, p. 54
  14. ^ Heporauta 1999, p. 24
  15. ^ Guimaraes, M. (2012). "A precedent in sustainable architecture: Alvar Aalto's summer house". Journal of Green Building. 7 (2): 64–73.
  16. ^ Paavilainen 1982, p. 23
  17. ^ Aalto 1998, p. 29
  18. ^ Aalto 1998, p. 76
  19. ^ Paavilainen 1982, pp. 11–15
  20. ^ Aalto 1998, pp. 19–20
  21. ^ Aalto 1998, pp. 17–19
  22. ^ Aalto 1998, pp. 56–57
  23. ^ Aalto 1998, pp. 49–55
  24. ^ Das Alvar-Aalto-Kulturhaus auf der Website des Alvar Aalto Zentrums Deutschland e.V. Wolfsburg, retrieved Jan. 25, 2015
  25. ^ Hipeli 2014, p. 116
  26. ^ McCarter 2006, p. 143
  27. ^ Pallasmaa 1998, p. 31
  28. ^ Vitra Design Museum.
  29. ^ Anderson, Fenske & Fixler 2012
  30. ^ Pallasmaa 1998, p. 19
  31. ^ Tourney 2013
  32. ^ Anon 2014
  33. ^ Schildt 1994, pp. 310–313
  34. ^ Labò 1968, p. 2
  35. ^ Labò 1968, p. 3
  36. ^ Kairamo 2009, p. 34-35
  37. ^ Weston 1997, p. 47-48
  38. ^ Hipeli 2014, p. 9
  39. ^ Korvenmaa 2004
  40. ^ Pallasmaa 1998
  41. ^ Anderson, Fenske & Fixler 2012
  42. ^ Holma 2015
  43. ^
  44. ^ Laaksonen 2008
  45. ^ Paatero 1993, p. 65-74
  46. ^ Eisenbrand 2014, p. 361-382
  47. ^ Eisenbrand 2014, p. 339-359
  48. ^ Anderson, Fenske & Fixler 2012
  49. ^ Paatero 1993, p. 105-112
  50. ^ Anderson, Fenske & Fixler 2012
  51. ^ Tafuri & Co 1976, p. 338
  52. ^ Jencks 1973, pp. 80–81
  53. ^ Mikkola 1969, p. 31


  • Aalto, Alvar (1998). Schildt, Goran, ed. Alvar Aalto in His Own Words. Helsinki, Finland: Rizzoli. ISBN 978-0847820801.
  • Alvar Aalto Museum (2011). "Alvar Aalto Museo" [Alvar Aalto Museum].
  • Anderson, Stanford (2013). Fenske, Gail; Fixler, David, eds. Aalto and America. Cambridge, MASS: MIT Press. ISBN 9780300176001.
  • Anon (2014). "Honorary Doctors". NTNU (in Norwegian). Archived from the original on 10 September 2014. Retrieved 10 September 2014.
  • Anon (2013). "Alvar Aalto : architect biography".
  • Anon. "Biography Alvar Aalto 1898–1976" (PDF). Vitra Design Museum.
  • Boyce, Charles (1985). "Aalto, Hugo Alvar Henrik (1899–1976)". Dictionary of Furniture. New York, NY: Henry Holt and Co. ISBN 0-8050-0752-0.
  • Brown, Theodore M. (1969). "Alto, Hugo Alvar Henrik". In Myers, Bernard S. McGraw-Hill Dictionary of Art. I: AA-Ceylon. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill Book Company. LCCN 68026314.
  • Chilvers, Ian, ed. (2004) [1988]. "Aalto, Alvar". The Oxford Dictionary of Art (3rd ed.). Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-860476-9.
  • Enckell, Ulla (1998). Alvar Aalto: Taiteilija - Konstnären - The Artist. Helsinki: Amos Anderson Museum. ISBN 952-9531-25-7.
  • Heporauta, Arne (1999). Alvar Aalto: Arkkitehti / Architect 1898–1976 (in Finnish) (1st ed.). Helsinki, Finland: Rakennustieto. ISBN 951-682-546-X.
  • Eisenbrand, Jochen, ed. (2014). Alvar Aalto - Second Nature. Weil am Rhein: Vitra Design Museum. ISBN 978-3-931936-93-8.
  • Hipeli, Mia, ed. (2014). Paimio Sanatorium 1929-33: Alvar Aalto Architect Volume 5. Helsinki: Alvar Aalto Foundation. ISBN 978-952-267-074-8.
  • Holma, Marjo, ed. (2015). House of Culture. Jyväskylä: Alvar Aalto Museum.
  • Jencks, Charles (1973). Modern Movements in Architecture. Garden City, NY: Anchor Press. ISBN 978-0385025546.
  • Kairamo, Maija, ed. (2009). Alvar Aalto Library in Vyborg: Saving a Modern Masterpiece. Helsinki: Rakennustieto. ISBN 978-951-682-938-1.
  • Korvenmaa, Pekka, ed. (2004). Sunila 1936-54: Alvar Aalto Architect Volume 7. Helsinki: Alvar Aalto Foundation. ISBN 952-5498-03-4.
  • Laaksonen, Esa, ed. (2008). Maison Louis Carré 1956-61: Alvar Aalto Architect Volume 20. Helsinki: Alvar Aalto Foundation. ISBN 978-952-5371-43-7.
  • Labò, Mario (1968) [1959]. "Aalto, Hugo Alvar Henrik". In Crandall, Robert W. Encyclopedia of World Art. I: Aalto-Asia Minor, Western. New York, NY: McGraw Hill Book Company, Inc. LCCN 59013433.
  • McCarter, Robert (2006). Frank Lloyd Wright. London: Reaktion Books. ISBN 978-1861892683.
  • Mikkola, Kirmo (1969). "Suomalaisen arkkitehtuurin ajankohtaista pyrkimyksiä". Arkkitehti (in Finnish). 66: 30–37.
  • Paatero, Kristiina, ed. (1993). The Line - Original Drawings from the Alvar Aalto Archive. Helsinki: Alvar Aalto Foundation. ISBN 951-9229-81-7.
  • Paavilainen, Simo, ed. (1982). Nordisk Klassicism – 1910–1930 [Nordic Classicism]. Helsinki: Museum of Finnish Architecture. ISBN 951-9229-21-3.
  • Pallasmaa, Juhani (1998). Alvar Aalto: Villa Mairea 1938–39 (2nd ed.). Ram Pubns & Dist. ISBN 978-9525371314.
  • Pelkonen, Eeva-Liisa (2009). Alvar Aalto: Architecture, Modernity, and Geopolitics. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press. ISBN 978-0300114287.
  • Schildt, Göran (1994). Alvar Aalto, A life's work: Architecture, Design and Art. Helsinki, Finland: Otava Pub. Co. ISBN 978-9511129752.
  • Suominen-Kokkonen, Renja (2007). Aino and Alvar Aalto – A Shared Journey – Interpretations of an everyday modernism. Helsinki: Alvar Aalto Foundation. ISBN 978-9525371321.
  • Tafuri, Manfredo; Co, Francesco Dal (1976). Architettura contemporanea [Modern Architecture] (in Italian). Milan: Electa.
  • Thorne, John, ed. (1984). "Aalto, Alvar". Chambers Biographical Dictionary (Revised ed.). Chambers. ISBN 0-550-18022-2.
  • Weston, Richard (1997) [1995]. Alvar Aalto. London, UK: Phaidon Press Limited. ISBN 978-0714837109.
  • Tourney, Michele (2013). "Book of Members, 1780–2010: Chapter A" (PDF). American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Retrieved 13 November 2013.

Further reading

Göran Schildt has written and edited many books on Aalto, the most well-known being the three-volume biography, usually referred to as the definitive biography on Aalto.

  • Schildt, Göran (1984). Alvar Aalto. The Early Years. New York, NY: Rizzoli. ISBN 978-0847805310.
  • Schildt, Göran (1987). Alvar Aalto. The Decisive Years. New York, NY: Rizzoli. ISBN 978-0847807116.
  • Schildt, Göran (1991). Alvar Aalto. The Mature Years. New York, NY: Rizzoli. ISBN 978-0847813292.
  • Alvar Aalto Archive Staff (1994). The Architectural Drawings of Alvar Aalto 1917–1939: Aalto's Own Home in Helsinki, the Finnish Pavilion at the 1937 World's Fair in Paris, and Other Buildings and Projects, 1932–1937. Garland Architectural Archives. Routledge.
  • Schildt, Göran (1994). Alvar Aalto: The Complete Catalogue of Architecture, Design and Art. New York, NY: Rizzoli. ISBN 978-0847818181.
Other books
  • Laaksonen, Esa (2013). Alvar Aalto Architect. 5: Paimio Sanatorium 1928–32. Rakennustieto Publishing. ISBN 978-9516829541.
  • Holma, Maija; Pallasmaa, Juhani; Suominen-Kokkonen, Renja (2003). Alvar Aalto Architect. 6: The Aalto House 1935–36. Alvar Aalto Foundation. ISBN 978-9525498011.
  • Korvenmaa, Pekka, ed. (2007). Alvar Aalto Architect. 7: Sunila 1936–1954. Alvar Aalto Foundation. ISBN 978-9525498035.
  • Aalto, Alvar (2008). Alvar Aalto Architect. 13: University of Technology, Otaniemi 1949–74. Alvar Aalto Foundation. ISBN 978-9525498080.
  • Hipeli, Mia (2009). Alvar Aalto Architect. 16: Jyväskylä University 1951–71. ASIN B002QH2LMK.
  • Aalto, Alvar (2008). Alvar Aalto Architect. 20: Maison Louis Carre 1956–63. Alvar Aalto Foundation. ISBN 978-9525498066.
  • Heporauta, Arne (1998). Alvar Aalto Arkkitehti: 1898–1976 (in Finnish). Helsinki, Finland: Rakennustieto Oy. ISBN 978-9516825468.
  • Fleig, Karl (1975). Alvar Aalto. Praeger Publishers. ISBN 978-0275496609.
  • Pearson, Paul David (1978). Alvar Aalto and the International Style. New York: Whitney Library of Design. ISBN 0-8230-7023-9.
  • Porphyrios, Demetri (1982). Sources of Modern Eclecticism. St. Martin's Press. ISBN 978-0312746735.
  • Pallasmaa, Juhani (1985). Aalto: Alvar Aalto Furniture. MIT Press. ISBN 978-0262132060.
  • Korvenmaa, Pekka; Treib, Marc (2002). Reed, Peter, ed. Alvar Aalto: Between Humanism and Materialism. New York, NY: The Museum of Modern Art. ISBN 978-0870701078.
  • Quantrill, Malcolm (1983). Alvar Aalto: A Critical Study. Secker & Warburg. ISBN 0941533352.
  • Ruusuvuori, Aarno, ed. (1978). Alvar Aalto 1898–1976. Helsinki, Finland: The Museum of Finnish Architecture. ASIN B0000ED4GS.
  • Jormakka, Kari; Gargus, Jacqueline; Graf, Douglas The Use and Abuse of Paper. Essays on Alvar Aalto. Datutop 20: Tampere 1999.
  • Connah, Roger (2008). Aaltomania. Rakennustieto Publishing. ISBN 978-9516826137.
Aalto research
  • The extensive archives of Alvar Aalto are nowadays kept at the Alvar Aalto Museum, Jyväskylä, Finland. Material is also available from the former offices of Aalto, at Tiilimäki 20, Helsinki, nowadays the headquarters of the Alvar Aalto Foundation.
  • Since 1995 the Alvar Aalto Museum and Aalto Academy has published a journal, Ptah, which is devoted not only to Aalto scholarship but also to architecture generally as well as theory, design and art.

External links

Media related to Alvar Aalto at Wikimedia Commons Quotations related to Alvar Aalto at Wikiquote

Buildings and reviews

Aalto-Hochhaus is a 22-floor high-rise apartment building in Bremen, Germany, designed by Alvar Aalto. It is approximately 60 meters tall and was completed in 1962. Since 1998, it is protected by the monument protection act.

Aalto Center

Aalto Center (Finnish: Aaltokeskus) is the administrative and cultural center of the City of Seinäjoki, Finland. It comprises six buildings, designed by Alvar Aalto and mainly completed between 1960 and 1968. The center represents one of Aalto's most important works and is notable in Finland and even internationally as an architectural whole. The wooden plan of the center is in the collections of the Museum of Modern Art in New York.

Aalto Theatre

The Aalto Theatre, officially the Aalto-Musiktheater Essen, is a performing arts venue in Essen, Germany. It opened on 25 September 1988 with Richard Wagner's opera Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg and is mainly used for opera and ballet, but also for concerts and galas.

The design by the Finnish architect Alvar Aalto was the unanimous winner in a competition in 1959, but the building was begun only in 1983, seven years after Aalto's death. A feature of the auditorium's design is its asymmetrical layout and the indigo blue colour of the seats.

The artistic director (Intendant) and music director (Generalmusikdirektor) from 1997 until 2013 was Stefan Soltesz. He was succeeded by Hein Mulders.

Following a survey of 50 critics in 2008, the magazine Opernwelt declared the Aalto Theatre to be the best opera house in the German-speaking countries and awarded the title Opera House of the Year 2008.

Aalto University

Aalto University (Finnish: Aalto-yliopisto, Swedish: Aalto-universitetet) is a university primarily located in Greater Helsinki, Finland. It was established in 2010 as a merger of three major Finnish universities: the Helsinki University of Technology (established 1849), the Helsinki School of Economics (established 1904), and the University of Art and Design Helsinki (established 1871). The close collaboration between the scientific, business and arts communities is intended to foster multi-disciplinary education and research. The Finnish government, in 2010, set out to create a university that fosters innovation, merging the three institutions into one.The university is composed of six schools with close to 17,500 students and 4,000 staff members, making it Finland's second largest university. The main campus of Aalto University is located in Otaniemi, Espoo, where the engineering schools as well as the bachelor programs of the School of Business operate. Other functions of the School of Business are located in Töölö. The School of Arts, Design and Architecture is mainly located in Arabianranta. All of the university's activities will be located in the Otaniemi campus by 2020. In addition to the Greater Helsinki area, the university also operates in Mikkeli and Pori.

Aalto University's operations showcase Finland’s experiment in higher education. The Aalto Design Factory, Aalto Ventures Program and Aalto Entrepreneurship Society (Aaltoes), among others, drive the university's mission for a radical shift towards multidisciplinary learning and have contributed substantially to the emergence of Helsinki as a hotbed for startups. Aaltoes is Europe’s largest and most active student run entrepreneurship community that has founded major concepts such as the Startup Sauna accelerator program and the Slush startup event.

The university is named in honour of Alvar Aalto, a prominent Finnish architect, designer and alumnus of the former Helsinki University of Technology, who was also instrumental in designing a large part of the university's main campus in Otaniemi.

Aino Aalto

Aino Maria Marsio-Aalto (born Aino Maria Mandelin; 25 January 1894 – 13 January 1949) was a Finnish architect and a pioneer of Scandinavian design. She is known as a co-founder of the design company Artek and as a collaborator on its most well-known designs. As Artek's first artistic director, her creative output spanned textiles, lamps, glassware, and buildings.

Alvar Aalto Medal

The Alvar Aalto Medal was established in 1967 by the Museum of Finnish Architecture, the Finnish Association of Architects (SAFA) and the Finnish Architectural Society. The Medal has been awarded intermittently since 1967 when the medal was created in honour of Alvar Aalto. The award is given in recognition of a significant contribution to creative architecture. The award was given earlier at the Alvar Aalto Symposium, held every three years in Jyväskylä, Aalto’s home town. Recently the ceremony has been organized on Aalto's birthday, February 3rd, today the Finnish national Day of Architecture.

The Alvar Aalto Medal is awarded again in 2017 and the medallist will be announced on 12 September 2017.

Alvar Aalto Museum

The Alvar Aalto Museum is a Finnish museum operating in two cities, Jyväskylä and Helsinki, in two locations each. All four locations are open to the public. They are:

The Alvar Aalto Museum in Jyväskylä, which is a museum specialised in architecture and design and functions as the national and international centre on all things Aalto (in more detail below).

The Muuratsalo Experiential House(in more detail below)

Villa Aalto in Munkkiniemi, Helsinki

Studio Aalto, also in Munkkiniemi, Helsinki

Artek (company)

Artek is a Finnish furniture company. It was founded in December 1935 by architect Alvar Aalto and his wife Aino Aalto, visual arts promoter Maire Gullichsen and art historian Nils-Gustav Hahl. The founders chose a non-Finnish name, the neologism Artek was meant to manifest the desire to combine art and technology. This echoed a main idea of the International Style movement, especially the Bauhaus, to emphasize the technical expertise in production and quality of materials, instead of historical-based, eclectic or frivolous ornamentation.The original aim of the venture was to promote the furniture and glassware of Alvar Aalto and Aino Aalto, and to produce furnishings for their buildings. Before 1935 the Aaltos' designs were manufactured by Huonekalu-ja Rakennustyötehdas Oy in Turku. That company was renamed Huonekalutehdas Korhonen Oy and moved to Littoinen, but now Artek and both companies are all part of Vitra (furniture). Artek have their own in-house designers, such as renown Ben af Schulten. Originally, the studio was set up ostensibly to assist Aalto's architects' office with interior designs for his buildings. Since Aalto's passing in 1976 the company has sold design objects by other Finnish designers, such as Juha Leiviskä and Eero Aarnio, as well as Vitra furniture.

Elissa Aalto

Elissa Aalto (22 November 1922, Kemi – 12 April 1994, Helsinki; born Elsa Kaisa Mäkiniemi) was a Finnish architect.

Finlandia Hall

The Finlandia Hall is a congress and event venue in the centre of Helsinki on the Töölönlahti Bay. The building, which was designed by architect Alvar Aalto, was completed in 1971. Every detail in the building is designed by Aalto. The designs were completed in 1962, with building taking place between 1967–1971. The Congress Wing was designed in 1970 and built in 1973–1975. In 2011, the building was expanded with new exhibition and meeting facilities.

The inauguration of the Finlandia Hall was celebrated on 2 December 1971. The inauguration concert included the first performance of Einojuhani Rautavaara’s Meren tytär (‘Daughter of the Sea’) and Aulis Sallinen’s Symphony (opus 24), as well as Sibelius’s violin concerto with Isaac Stern as the violin soloist of the Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra.

Pekka Suhonen, Petri Mustonen and Eeva-Kaarina Holopainen authored a comprehensive history of the Finlandia Hall, Events, People and Music which the Otava Publishing Company published in 2001.

The versatile and flexible meeting, exhibition, festival and concert facilities of the Finlandia Hall offer a setting for both large international congresses and small-scale meetings, and for various entertainment and public events. The Finlandia Hall has proved its ability to serve as a venue for several world congresses and as a forum for the world’s top economic and political leaders. The building itself is a popular attraction visited by thousands of tourists from all over the world every year. The building is owned by the City of Helsinki.

Helsinki University of Technology

The Helsinki University of Technology (TKK; Finnish: Teknillinen korkeakoulu; Swedish: Tekniska högskolan) was a technical university in Finland. It was located in Otaniemi, Espoo in the metropolitan area of Greater Helsinki. The university was founded in 1849 by Grand Duke Nicholas I and received university status in 1908. It moved from Helsinki to Otaniemi campus area in 1966. It was merged into Aalto University in 2010 and briefly had the name Aalto University School of Science and Technology before being split into four schools in 2011.

Much of the university's Otaniemi campus was designed by Alvar Aalto.

KUNSTEN Museum of Modern Art Aalborg

KUNSTEN Museum of Modern Art Aalborg is located in Aalborg, Denmark, on Kong Christians Allé near its junction with Vetserbro. Of a modern Scandinavian design, it was built between 1968-72 by Finnish architects Elissa and Alvar Aalto and Danish architect Jean-Jacques Baruël. It was completed on 8 June 1972.The museum has been termed a "showplace for 20th-century Danish and international art", as it showcases both domestic and international modern art collections. It is described as "strikingly contemporary in both form and content".


Kulttuuritalo (Finnish: Kulttuuritalo, Swedish: Kulturhuset) is a building in Alppila, Helsinki, Finland. The building was designed by Alvar Aalto, and is considered to be one of his main works.

Paimio Sanatorium

Paimio Sanatorium is a former tuberculosis sanatorium in Paimio, Southwest Finland, designed by Finnish architect Alvar Aalto. Aalto received the design commission having won the architectural competition for the project held in 1929. The building was completed in 1933, and soon after received critical acclaim both in Finland and abroad. The building served exclusively as a tuberculosis sanatorium until the early 1960s, when it was converted into a general hospital. Today the building is owned by Turku University Hospital but is not functioning as a hospital; rather, the building has functioned as private rehabilitation center for children since 2014. The sanatorium has been nominated to become a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Studio Aalto

The Studio Aalto is a house in the Tiilimäki neighbourhood of Munkkiniemi, Helsinki, which Alvar Aalto designed during 1955–56 to be the studio of his architect bureau. Due to a large number of commissions, the office needed more space in which to work. The studio is said to be one of his best buildings from the 1950s. Near the studio there is also Villa Aalto, the home (and previous office) of the Aaltos. Both the studio and the Villa are now part of the Alvar Aalto Museum, and they are open to the public. The Alvar Aalto Academy and Alvar Aalto Museum Architectural Heritage Department are housed in Studio Aalto.

Säynätsalo Town Hall

The Säynätsalo Town Hall (Finnish: Säynätsalon kunnantalo) is a multifunction building complex – town hall, shops, library and flats – designed by Finnish architect Alvar Aalto for the municipality of Säynätsalo (merged with the municipality of Jyväskylä in 1993) in Central Finland. Aalto received the commission after a design contest in 1949, and the building was completed in December 1951.

The town hall is considered one of the most important buildings Aalto designed in his career.

Tegnestuen Vandkunsten

Tegnestuen Vandkunsten a/s, often referred to simply as Vandkunsten, is a Danish architectural firm founded in 1970. Vandkunsten were awarded the Alvar Aalto Medal in 2009 for being a "modern interpretor [sic] and elaborator of Alvar Aalto's ideological heritage". This was the first time that the Alvar Aalto Medal was awarded to a team of architects instead of an individual. Their pioneering and influential work in residential architecture and housing developments has been described as characterized by convertibility, communality, residential involvement, dense-low rise, and sustainable development. The office comprising around 30 designers, is located in Copenhagen, while having completed projects in Scandinavia and other parts of Europe as well.

Villa Aalto

Villa Aalto, the home of Academician Alvar Aalto is located in Munkkiniemi, Helsinki, at 20, Riihitie. The house is part of the Alvar Aalto Museum, which functions in two cities, Jyväskylä and Helsinki. The other location in Helsinki where the museum functions is Studio Aalto, which is located ca. 450 metres from the house, at Tiilimäki 20.

Vyborg Library

Vyborg Library (Finnish: Viipurin kirjasto) is a library in Vyborg, Russia, built during the time of Finnish sovereignty (1918 to 1940-44), before the Finnish city of Viipuri was annexed by the former USSR and its Finnish name was changed to Vyborg by the USSR authorities.

The building, built from 1927 to 1935, is an internationally acclaimed design by the Finnish architect Alvar Aalto and one of the major examples of 1920s functionalist architectural design. The library is considered one of the first manifestations of "regional modernism". It is particularly famous for its wave-shaped ceiling in the auditorium, the shape of which, Aalto argued, was based on acoustic studies. On completion the library was known as Viipuri Library, but after the Second World War and Soviet annexation, the library was renamed the Nadezhda Krupskaya Municipal Library. Nowadays, integrated in the Russian Federation city of Vyborg, the library is officially known as the Central City Alvar Aalto Library.

The library restoration project lasted almost two decades from 1994 until late 2013. The restoration work was awarded with the World Monuments Fund / Knoll Modernism Prize in 2014 and the Europa Nostra Award in 2015.

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