Pioneers of Architecture: Alvar Aalto

As the Dwipbox Team gears up to mobilize on their first mixed-use development in Scandinavia, the studio exhilarates in the celebration of the birthday of the renowned Finnish architect - Alvar Aalto.

Back when Finland was still a part of the Russian Empire, Hugo Alvar Henrick Alto was born on 3rd February 1898 in Alajajarvi. He completed his studies at the Helinski University of Technology in 1921 and set up his own practice in 1923.

Fig 1: Aalvar Aalto

In the early 1920s, Aalto visited the capital cities of Finland’s neighbors like Stockholm, Riga, and Copenhagen. These journeys widely influenced his work. Traveling around Europe with his sketchpad, Alvar used to sketch the historic and renowned buildings of the cities. He also collected “architectural souvenirs” from different places that were utilized as motifs in his buildings. Alvar Aalto was a Finnish architect, product designer, and city planner. He had an international reputation for “distinctive blend of modernist refinement, indigenous materials and personal impression in form and detail”.


Architecture

Internationally acclaimed for over 200 projects in the world, Alvar Aalto displayed the modernistic approach to his buildings. Although his early work in Finland was an epitome of Nordic Classism, his extensive travel in Southern Europe influenced his style of work which consisted of a diverse range of modern contemporary approaches.

In the late 1930s, Aalto’s designs evolved into synthetic and personal modernism with elements that were more regionally specific. He became one of the most influential architects, focusing on materiality and phenomenological approach that influenced the younger generations around the world. He gained recognition in the late 1920s when he won a competition to design the south-western Finland Agricultural Co-operative Building in Turku. His signature “ethos”


Fig 3: Paimio tuberculosis Sanatorium
Fig 3: Paimio tuberculosis Sanatorium

Fig 4: Paimio tuberculosis Sanatorium
Fig 4: Paimio tuberculosis Sanatorium

It was during the Paimio Tuberculosis Sanatorium that Aalto’s career flourished. He designed the structure with an idea that the interior and exterior of the building should complete its function. It was during this competition that he collaborated with the residents of the hospital to design the Paimio Chair for the patients.


In 1935, he started a furniture design company with his wife that remains in operation. Aalto also designed the Armchair #406 in 1939. The armchair combines the elegance of the chair and comfort. The chair was designed in a ribbon-like manner, with the armrests assembles with a single block of wood cut in half. As wood changes over time, the chair remains perfectly balanced. Offering a high degree of comfort and balance, “the cantilevered birch frame and linen webbed seat offer a high degree of comfort and relaxation as the natural materials yield in response to the body while simultaneously providing strength and stability.”


Fig 6: Artek Armchair
Fig 7: Paimio Chair

City Planning

After the city of Rovaniemi was destroyed during World War II, Aalto designed the reconstruction plan of the city in 1944-1945. Over 90% of the structures in the town center were destroyed; hence, the rebuilding process started quickly after the tragedy. As the city is famously known as the birthplace of Santa Claus with the reindeer as the iconic animal of the city, the city plan was designed in the shape of a reindeer. According to Aalto’s design, the central Rovaniemi is wrapped inside the reindeer’s head with the Keskuskentta sports stadium as its eye. The roads leading to the North, West, and South of the city make up the antlers of the reindeer.


Fig 8: Rovaneimi Plan


References:

1. https://visit.alvaraalto.fi/en/about-alvar-aalto/

2. https://www.visitrovaniemi.fi/love/architecture/

3. https://www.ericvokel.com/blog/alvar-aalto-iconic-finnish-architecture-and-design/

4. https://www.britannica.com/biography/Alvar-Aalto

5. https://theculturetrip.com/europe/finland/articles/the-architecture-of-alvar-aalto-a-finnish-icon/

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