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Alvar Aalto was born in Kuortane, Finland.

He studied architecture at the Helsinki University of Technology


from 1916 to 1921. He returned to Jyvskyl, where he opened his first architectural office in 1923. The
following year he married architect Aino Marsio. Their honeymoon journey to Italy sealed an intellectual bond
with the culture of the Mediterranean region that was to remain important to Aalto for the rest of his life. Aalto
moved his office to Turku in 1927, and started collaborating with architect Erik Bryggman. The office moved
again in 1933, to Helsinki. The Aaltos designed and built a joint house-office (1935-36) for themselves in
Munkkiniemi, Helsinki, but later (1954-55) had a purpose-built office built in the same neighbourhood. Aino
Aalto died in 1949 and in 1952 he married architect Elissa Mkiniemi (died 1994). In 1957 they designed and had
built a summer cottage, the so-called Experimental House, for themselves in Muuratsalo, where they spent their
summers. Alvar Aalto died in May 11, 1976, in Helsinki
Although sometimes regarded as the first and the most influential architects of Nordic modernism, a closer
examination of the historical facts reveals how Aalto (while a pioneer in Finland) closely followed and had
personal contacts with other pioneers in Sweden, in particular Gunnar Asplund and Sven Markelius. But 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 in the so-called Nordic Classicism style before moving, in the late
1920s, towards Modernism.
In Aalto's case this is epitomised by the Viipuri Library (1927-35), which went through a transformation from an
originally classical competition entry proposal to the completed high-modernist building. His humanistic
approach is in full evidence there: the interior displays natural materials, warm colours, and undulating lines. The
Viipuri Library project lasted eight years, and during that same time he also designed the Turun Sanomat Building
(1929-30) and Paimio Sanatorium (1929-33): thus the Turun Sanomat Building first heralded Aalto's move
towards modernism, and this was then carried forward both in the Paimio Sanatorium and in the on-going design
for the library. But though the Turun Sanomat Building and Paimio Sanatorium are comparatively pure modernist
works, even they carried the seeds of his questioning of such an approach and a move to a more daring, synthetic
attitude.Aalto was a member of the Congres Internationaux d'Architecture Moderne; attending the second
congress in Frankfurt in 1929, and the fourth congress in Athens in 1933. It was not until the completion of the
Paimio Sanatorium (1929) and Viipuri Library (1935) that he first achieved world attention in architecture. 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".
It could be said that Aalto's 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.Aalto's
wide field of activity ranged from furniture and glassware designs to architecture and painting. His vase designs
are world-famous. He invented a new form of laminated bent-plywood furniture in 1932. Aalto furniture is
manufactured by Artek, a company Aalto co-founded with his wife Aino Aalto, Maire Gullichsen (Ahlstrm
Gullichsen family) and Nils-Gustav Hahl. Aalto glassware (Aino as well as Alvar) is manufactured by Iittala.
Aalto's career spans the changes in style from pre-modernism (Nordic Classicism) to purist International Style
Modernism to a more synthetic and idiosyncratic approach.
Although his early work borrowed from the neoclassic movement, he eventually adapted the symbolism
and functionalism of the Modern Movement to generate his plans and forms. Aalto's mature work
embodies a unique functionalist/expressionist and humane style, successfully applied to libraries, civic
centers, churches, housing, etc. A synthesis of rational with intuitive design principles allowed Aalto to
create a long series of functional yet non-reductionist buildings. Alvar Aalto generated a style of
functionalism which avoided romantic excess and neoclassical monotony. Although Aalto borrowed from
the International Style, he utilized texture, color, and structure in creative new ways. He refined the
generic examples of modern architecture that existed in most of Europe and recreated them into a new

Finnish architecture. Aalto's designs were particularly significant because of their response to site, material
and form. Aalto generated a large body of work in Germany, America, and Sweden. Often at work on
multiple projects, he tended to intermingle ideas and details within his work. The spectrum of Aalto's work
exhibits a sensual detailing that separates him from most of his contemporaries. Aalto was a master of
form and planning, as well as of details that relate a building successfully to its users. His buildings have
provided renewed inspiration in the face of widespread disillusionment with high modernism on one hand,
and post-modernism on the other.
The summerhouse at Muuratsalo is not only a place to live and work but is also a sort of experimental
house. It is located in the lake country of north-central Finland, one hour by motor boat from the nearest
railroad station. Two wings of equal length set perpendicularly to each other, one containing the living
area and the other the bedrooms, form a square court which is closed to the exterior by means of high
walls. The exterior walls of this court are developed as mosaic-like experimental walls, divided into about
fifty areas in which different types and sizes of brick and ceramic tile with different methods of jointing
are used, so as to test their effect from both the aesthetic and practical standpoints. The lean-to roof rises
steeply over the living area towards the west wall
Alvar Aalto submitted two projects, while Aino Aalto entered one in the competition of 1935; they
received three first prizes and the commission. The Pavilion was then built 1936 to 1937. "The wooden
parts of the Pavilion were fabricated in Finland and assembled by Finnish craftsmen. The upper portion of
the Pavilion consisted of a steel framework whereby a combination of steel and wood was introduced as a
main visual theme." "The exterior skin of the Main Pavilion was an attempt to make this particular aspect
of the scale of wood apparent. The interior spaces were a play of alternating combinations of white
surfaces and wood, both on the walls and ceiling." "In the Pavilions the visitors found themselves on
different levels so that a part of the Exhibition could be experienced from above, as a panorama."
Worker's Club
This is a typical example of Alvar Aalto's early work in his home town in which he first practiced: a
working-men's club, built in 1925. The accommodation inside - a meeting-room above and a restaurant
below - is clearly expressed on the exterior, and the sharply punctuated wall-surfaces echo some
international fashions of the 1920s. These reveal an urge towards modernism which the superficial
neoclassical treatment goes some way to disguise.
Finnish Pavilion, 1939
This pavilion was truly a 'magic box' from a spatial point of view on the inside, whilst it remained a
simple functional box on the outsideThe Exhibition is difficult to describe architecturally. It represents a
synthesis of, on the one hand, typical forms and symbols existing in the Finnish landscape and, on the
other, of rational considerations. Determinants in the creation of the Pavilion were the significance of
Finland's northern location and the attempt to achieve a combination of horizontal and vertical effects. In
order to enlarge visually the relatively small standard pavilionthe Finnish Pavilion had a skeleton
consisting of a type of mass-produced scaffolding leaving only the front faades freethe development of
a free architectural form was necessaryThe competition was in 1937, and the Pavilion was subsequently
built 1938 to 1939. "The 52-ft.-high Pavilion consisted of four stories in all. The uppermost series of
photographs showed the Country; the next, the People; the third, somewhat lower down, Work, and finally
the bottom series depicted the results of the above three factorsthe Products." "The interior finish was of
wood with different profiles so formed as to create an harmonic rhythm of materials and photographic
presentations. The materials used in the construction of the wall surfaces were also treated as objects on
exhibit." "The roof, too, was used as exhibit area: aeroplane propellors of pressed wood, a Finnish
specialty, churned the air both as objects on display and as a source of ventilation."