Although he is sometimes regarded as among the first and most influential architects of Nordic modernism, a closer examination of the historical facts reveals that Aalto (while a pioneer in Finland) closely followed and had personal contacts with other pioneers in Sweden, in particular Gunnar Asplund and Sven Markelius. What they and many others of that generation in the Nordic countries had in common was that they started off from a classical education and were first designing in the so-called Nordic Classicism style – a style that had been a reaction to the previous dominant style of National Romanticism – before moving, in the late 1920s, towards Modernism.
Aalto was a member of the Congres Internationaux d’Architecture Moderne, attending the second congress in Frankfurt in 1929 and the fourth congress in Athens in 1933. It was not until the completion of the Paimio Sanatorium (1929) and Viipuri Library (1935) that he first achieved world attention in architecture. His reputation grew in the USA following the critical reception of his design for the Finnish Pavilion at the 1939 New York World’s Fair, described by Frank Lloyd Wright as a “work of genius”.
Aalto’s career spans the changes in style from (Nordic Classicism) to purist International Style Modernism to a more personal, synthetic and idiosyncratic Modernism. Aalto’s wide field of design activity ranges from the large scale of city planning and architecture to interior design, furniture and glassware design and painting. It has been estimated that during his entire career Aalto designed over 500 individual buildings, approximately 300 of which were built, the vast majority of which are in Finland. He also has a few buildings in the USA, Germany, Italy, and France.
Aalto claimed that his paintings were not made as individual artworks but as part of his process of architectural design, and many of his small-scale “sculptural” experiments with wood led to later larger architectural details and forms. These experiments also led to a number of patents: for example, he invented a new form of laminated bent-plywood furniture in 1932. His experimental method had been influenced by his meetings with various members of the Bauhaus design school, especially László Moholy-Nagy, whom he first met in 1930. Aalto’s furniture was exhibited in London in 1935, to great critical acclaim, and to cope with the consumer demand Aalto, together with his wife Aino, Maire Gullichsen and Nils-Gustav Hahl founded the company Artek that same year. Aalto glassware (Aino as well as Alvar) is manufactured by Iittala.
Once upon a time I want to fill my home with the same spirit.