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Finnish architect and designer Alvar Aalto

Alvar Aalto

architect - designer

Born in Kuortane, Finland, Alvar Aalto studied architecture at the Technical University of Helsinki from 1916 to 1921. He was a skilful architect and designer of furniture, glass, and lighting.

He started his career working as an exhibition designer and in 1925, became involved with furniture design. He used to work with bent wood and glue, a technique which he used for the creation of many items including the world-famous Paimio furniture, a collection originally meant for a sanatorium in an area called Paimio.

In 1927 he won a competition for the construction of the South-western Finland Agricultural Cooperative Building and moved to the city of Turku. He became a member of the Congrès Internationaux d' Architecture Moderne in 1928. In 1929 he designed the Turku 700th Anniversary Exhibition, and established an experimental plywood workshop in Turku with the designer Otto Korhonen who was the technical director of a furniture factory in the area.

In 1933 he finished the construction of the tuberculosis sanatorium situated in the thick forest of the area of Paimio about 29 km East of Turku. In addition to designing the building, he designed the interior of the entire sanatorium using furniture that he had especially created for the purpose, which he named Paimio after the location where the sanatorium was built.

In 1935, with Harry Gullichsen (an important economist), Maire Gullichsen (an important professor of visual arts, design, and architecture), and Aino Marsio (popular architect and designer), he founded the furniture design company Artek where he continued to develop the technique for the production of laminated-wood furniture that he had used for the creation of the Paimio collection.

In 1936 he designed his own house in Helsinki's Munkkiniemi basing his work on the principle that the starting point in the design of a building should be the natural look its surroundings. He subsequently used this method with success in the design of many other buildings. A good example of this is the Sunila factory community.

In 1939 he designed the pavilion for the New York World's Fair. After the Second World War he designed the student dormitory building for MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology). In 1957 he was given a gold medal by the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA). In 1958, years in which he relinquished the chairmanship of the Finnish Association of Architects, he won several competitions.

In 1960 he designed the Sein´┐Żjoki and Rovaniemi city centres.

Alvar Aalto's work was successfully shown in the UK at the Exhibition of Finnish Design held in London in 1933, and in France at the Paris 1937 Exhibition.

Alvar Aalto

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Scandinavian design

Alvar Aalto Museum