Episode #4 of the course “Architects who changed the world”
Alvar Aalto is one of the most influential and progressive architects of the 20th century. A native of Finland, he inspired innovative new thinking in Europe with his development of designing a building as a “total piece of art.” With an illustrious career in furniture design as well as building design, Aalto took extensive care in incorporating unforgettable, elegant details to his designs. He worked in textiles and sculptured glass, becoming familiar with how to add multiple artistic elements into his buildings.
House of Culture, Helsinki
The Aalto-Theater opera house in Essen, Germany
Aalto began his architectural career with a highly Classical style and developed more elements of Modernism and Organic Modernism over the years. After beginning his career designing private houses in a Nordic Classicism style, he began taking commissions for public buildings. He is estimated to have designed over 500 buildings, with 300 of them actually built, including the Auditorium at the University of Technology in Finland, the Auditorium of the Viipuri Municipal Library, and the building to house the League of Nations. He developed relationships with the most important modernist architects, including Le Corbusier, and was influenced by the concept of making the function of space as important to its design as its use and beauty.
Auditorium at the University of Technology
Finlandia Hall in Helsinki
Aalto is famous for his technique and incorporations of wood in both buildings and furniture. In particular, he bent plywood for both efficiency and aesthetics in a style that came to be known as Scandinavian Modern. When exhibited in London in 1935, Aalto’s laminated bent-plywood furniture was so well-received and consumers made so many demands that Aalto founded a furniture company, Artek, later that year. He was also especially known for his glasswork and designs of many lamps, which allowed him to envision brilliant lighting concepts in his spaces.
Lightings, at Le Grand Hornu
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