February 3rd, 1898Died:
May 11th, 1976Famous works:
The Paimio chair, Stool 60, Golden Bell A330S pendant
Hand Grenade A110 pendant, and Aalto vases.Education:
Architecture at Helsinki University of Technology
Hugo Alvar Henrik Aalto is one of the greatest Finnish designers of all time. He is best known for the Aalto vase and his birch furniture, including Stool 60—a classic that has been copied numerous times. Just like so many other architects of his day, Aalto liked to do more than just draw houses. To him, it was important that a building was a complete unit, and so he started designing furniture and lighting solutions that suited his architectural style—and he experienced great success.
His main inspiration when it came to light design was rays of sunlight and their effect. Nature was generally a great source of inspiration for Aalto, and this is clearly reflected in his architecture and designs. Just like his pieces of furniture, his lamps have reached classic status. His timeless designs are particularly famous for their practical angles that served as the starting point whenever he embarked on a new project.
Alvar Aalto was born to Selma Matilda and Johan Henrik Aalto in Kuortane, Finland, in 1898. When he was five years old, his family moved to central Finland, and he stayed there until he finished school at age 18. He then took illustration classes from a local artist named Jonas Heiska, and he later went on to study architecture at Helsinki University of Technology.
During his studies, he built his first piece of architecture: a house for his parents in Alajärvi. At the same time, he went on his first trip abroad to Gothenburg via Stockholm, where he collaborated with the architect Arvid Bjerke. He then returned to Jyväskyla, where he opened an architect’s office that helped build various small family homes.
As his workload increased, Aalto moved his office to Helsinki in 1933, where he built a shared home office. In 1924, Aalto and the young architect Aino Marsio who worked at the office married. They went on a honeymoon to Venice and Florence in Italy as well as Paris in France. The Italian architecture made quite the impression on Aalto, especially the small rural churches. This is reflected in his later architecture that features asymmetrical constructions, white walls, and a rustic feel.
The beginnings of Artek
Because of Aalto’s focus on holistic design, he naturally designed furniture, home accessories, and lighting solutions for his buildings. He didn’t like the modern metal chairs that were all the rage at the time, so he went looking for a material that would make them more comfortable. He settled on the pressed wood that is associated with Aalto to this day. In the 1930s, he invented a production method that made it possible to bend and splice wood. He experimented with organic shapes to solve complex issues. Take the Paimio chair, for example. According to Aalto, the chair had a gradient that helped tuberculosis patients breathe easier.
His furniture was exhibited in London and Milan, where it was the subject of much attention. His success brought with it an increased demand for his furniture, but he wasn’t interested in doing business and rejected all these inquiries. As a result, a representative of his furniture factory in England got in touch with Aalto’s close friend Nils-Gustav Hahl. Together with Marie Gullichsen, they wanted to satisfy the demand for his furniture.
To meet this demand, the Finnish company Artek was founded in 1935, consisting of Alvar Aalto, his wife Aino Aalto, Nils-Gustav Hahl, and Marie Gullichsen. Their mission was “to sell furniture and to promote a modern culture of living by exhibitions and other educational means”. This marked the beginning of Artek, a company that now sells furniture, home accessories, and lighting solutions.Read more about Artek here