A Look Inside the Life of an Iconic Modern Architect: Alvar Aalto

“The ultimate goal of an architect…is to create paradise”- Alvar Aalto


Alvar Aalto, known as one of the founders of Artek and a great master of modern architecture, was born in Kauotane, Finland. From 1916-1921, he studied architecture at the Helsinki University of Technology where he learned the skills that later earned him the recognition of millions. His work included textile, buildings, furniture, and glassware that also embraced many forms of public institutions such as churches, town halls, schools, and libraries. Although it has been 45 years since his death, Aalto is an influential figure because he formed the building blocks of today’s contemporary architecture.


During his 50-year career, he designed approximately 500 buildings in which all were defined by his design principle gesamtkunstwerk. Whether he used functionalism in his modernist phase or monumentalism later on in his career, gesamtkunstwerk became a part of his design aesthetic that like many artists transcended national boundaries. Aalto’s architectural style can be described by his Finish upbringing and his belief to create an organic relationship between man, nature, and buildings. His buildings are constructed to display their aesthetic character from their animated relationship with their surroundings, their human scales, gracefully executed details, and unique treatment of materials.


In 1985 only 11 years after his death, Elaine Markoutsas, home furnishing writer, further gave recognition to Aalto by stating “whether he was designing buildings or chairs or vases, Alvar Aalto was ever mindful that he should inject some human element into their form.”


During the 1920’s, Aalto’s career began to soar as he won several design competitions such as the Southwestern Finland Agricultural Cooperative Building and the Paimio Tuberculosis Sanatorium. His signature use of functionalism earned him the admiration of many design critics who have praised his work for being designed in a “warm and curving way that is unlike the mechanistic, coolly geometrical, abstract designs of his European peers.” Aalto’s legacy is important to understand because he was one of the first architects to define what modern architecture meant and what an architect’s mission should be, which can still be seen today in some of our favorite architectural pieces.

Want to know more: Add to your bucket list visiting Alvar Aalto Museum.

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