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Alvar Aalto - Architect
“Whatever is superfluous becomes ugly over time”, said Alvar Aalto.
Probably, one of the most influential Nordic designers of the XX century, and one of those who form part of the Modern Movement along with Le Corbusier, whom we told you about in the previous issue, or Van der Rohe.
His notion of architecture considered building to be a public service and they say that he never allowed himself to be swayed by money at a hard time when poverty also afflicted discreet Nordic Finland.
In 1921, at the age of 23, Aalto emerged as an architect from Helsinki Polytechnic University, where romantic nationalism still ruled. When the young Aalto was opening his architect’s studio, the most important Finnish architect of the period, Eliel Saarinen, went to live in the United States. The Modern Movement arrived in Finland in the 1930s, a little after the first CIAM of La Sarraz led by Le Corbusier and Giedion, who would befriend Aalto: that new way of looking at space and life imposed itself on the simple popular architecture that had its roots in Finnish history. The Modern Movement’s ideas, which arrived with the functionalists Sven Gottfrid Markelius, Uno Åhrén and Paul Gunnar Hedqvist, also reached neighbouring Sweden (always such an influence, like Russia, on Finland).
Aalto saw the influences of national Romanticism as an expression of the social movement as opposed to the Swedish and Russian advance into Finnish life at the end of the XIX century.
In 1924, Aalto travelled to Italy with his wife, Aino Marsio, and the influence of Italian culture was to become one of the key elements in his work as an architect. The Renaissance was one of the bases for the churches and chapels that he built at the end of the 1920s, as can be seen in the churches of Jämsä and Muurame. In 1932, Aalto won a contest and created a series of bowls, plates and jugs that had a wavy form and that were manufactured with a printed glass that was cheap to produce. He got more and more involved in designing furniture and objects. In 1935, the Aalto couple created the company Artek to distribute internationally the furniture that they were planning with the aim of bringing art and technology together (hence artek) in the industrial manufacture of objects for everyday life that, in addition, were beautiful and that possessed artistic value.
In Spain, which he visited in 1951 (Barcelona, Madrid, Palma, Granada), his arrival was the trigger for the creation of the Grupo R (that was recognised in GATCPAC and CIAM and that brought together architects such as Antoni de Moragas, Josep Antoni Coderch, Joaquim Gili, Josep Maria Sostres, Manuel Valls, Oriol Bohigas, and Josep Martorell) and for the Manifiesto de la Alhambra, which wanted to recover the concepts of the Modern Movement. In conversation, Aalto acknowledged some Spanish influences such as that of Miró in the roof of the library at Viborg, which, according to him, possessed a sinuous form like in a painting by Miró. That Russian library, made up of two cubic structures, is illuminated by huge skylights and was recently restored.Read more Close