October 05, 2019 4 min read

One of the names synonymous with modern architecture and design is Alvar Aalto, an architect and designer who has left his mark on the design world. We will explore designs and we will look at some of his most famous design works to gain a better understanding of how Alvar from the early 1900s has helped shape what is refered to as modern design today.

Who is Alvar Aalto?

Alvar Aalto portrait

Alvar Aalto

For those familiar with modern design, chances are you have stumbled upon Alvar Aalto. Born on February 3rd, 1898, Alvar Aalto was a Finnish architect and designer, who became eminent for his numerous projects in architecture, furniture, textiles, glassware, paintings, sculptures, and more. He was intrigued by the beauty the world provided and his work is a clear representation of this.  After completing his studies or architecture at the Helsinki University of Technology, he once again moved to Jyväskylä, where his first architectural office would become a reality.

Louis Carre Residence by Alvar Aalto

Alvar Aalto was one of the founding fathers of Scandinavian modern design and was an official member of the Congres Internationaux d'Architecture Moderne where he had the ability to spread his concept and ideas in design. All of Alvar Aalto’s works focus on not only completing a project for the sake of its functionality but with the purpose of creating art. He became popular for his humanist philosophy rather than a unique style.

Alvar Aalto’s approach to design

Although Alvar Aalto was originally inspired by Modernism, as his experience as a designer progressed he slowly shifted from modernism to only return to it towards his later life. He preferred working with natural materials such as wood and brick, which enabled him to leave his mark on his pieces. The ultimate purpose of his projects was to provide a pleasant solution to a human problem. He was fond of simplicity, sharing the concept of today’s contemporary style, which promotes a clean, not so decorated lifestyle. The central idea behind design, according to Alvar Aalto, was to create harmony between our surrounding environment and our inner world.

Residence by Alvar Aalto

A number of Alvar’s creations are still of interest and use to designers and consumers today. His design served as inspiration for other popular designers such as the Eameses and Eero Saarinen. The majority of his architectural projects were related to improving the lifestyle of society and included culture houses, university centers, churches, as well as villas or student dormitories. His sense of purpose was spread across his designs and was one of the dominant factors for his popularity even today.

Most popular work

Alvar Aalto is remembered for a vast range of projects that will not soon be forgotten for his many architectural and industrial designs.

Finlandia Hall, Alvar Aalto

Finlandia Hall, Alvar Aalto

Paimio Tuberculosis Sanatorium by Alvar Aalto

Paimio Tuberculosis Sanatorium by Alvar Aalto

Paimio Tuberculosis Sanatorium

The Paimio Tuberculosis Sanatorium was finished in 1933 and represented an important change in terms of Alvar Aalto’s approach to design. During the project, the designer clearly showed an appreciation for Functionalism and used a Modernist approach to exterior. The purpose behind the project was to create a center for healing and the interior represents this at its best. The use of warm, soothing colors and soft light was the perfect solution. The Paimio Chair, another eminent work by Alvar Aalto, was used in this hospital. The popular chair was made of bent wood and set the start of this passion for chair making. In later years, experiments led him to explore the benefits of mass production stools.

Villa Mairea residence by Alvar Aalto

Villa Mairea residence by Alvar Aalto

Villa Mairea

Among one of his most popular works is Villa Mairea, a project created for Alvar’s friends Harry and Maire Gullichsen. The house, which started as an experiment, turned into a masterpiece and opened up new design horizons for Alvar Aalto. The house is L-shaped and includes significant use of wood for both the exterior and interior. Alvar Aalto’s wife, Aino, also participated in the project in designing the kitchen area.

Savoy Vase

Savoy Vase by Alvar Aalto

The Savoy vase

Apart from architecture and buildings, Alvar Aalto was also popular for creating interior features, which would contribute to the overall look and feel of a certain space. He worked on the creation of a number of different vase styles and one of his vases, the Savoy, is comfortably sealed in history and a masterpiece. The vase was named after the Savoy restaurant, which it was designed for. Today, the Savoy vase is also referred to as the Aalto vase. To the designer, the purpose of the vase was never to simply act as a vase but rather, to stand proudly as an art piece in the restaurant and be flexible in terms of its use.

Other furniture design

Alvar Aalto also developed a passion for creating chairs and stools. His chairs ranged from kitchen stools, three-legged stools, four-legged stools, and lounge or armchairs, to dining or coffee chairs. All of them had one thing in common – they were mainly concerned with providing a pleasant and comfortable use for the consumer. Lighting was also of interest to Alvar and during his time he worked on a range of lighting projects, creating eminent solutions that are still used today.

Alvar Aalto Armchair


Alvar Aalto Armchair

The life of Alvar Aalto was an interesting journey from a design perspective and has certainly left behind valuable ideas creations often inspiring and used by today’s designers taking his templates further in modern contemporary architecture and design.The beauty of design is hidden in its potential for evolution and designers such as Alvar Aalto have proven this.

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