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Alvar Aalto

Updated August 11, 2022

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Alvar Aalto essay

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Became one of Finland’s most inspirational designers to date. As a child, Alvar had an incredibly active mind. Around the age of four he began to scribble at his father’s desk; Scribbles that would eventually lead on to projects from the same vein as his father’s work as a land surveyor and grandfather who was a forest warden. Early in life, Aalto’s grandfather taught him to value nature.He once said, “The forest can do without man, but man cannot do without the forest”, values that would make a huge impact on Alvar, who carried the love and respect with him for the rest of his life. He was the eldest of four children and together with their family, the Aalto’s would spend a great amount of time in nature. (Finnish forest) Later in life, as technology began to liberate mankind Alvar instead saw it enslaving people and worried it would have negative impact on contemporary architecture. Alvar looked to nature for the answer, as he believed it to be “a symbol of freedom.” (Big ugly buildings in 1950)

With his forester grandfather and land surveyor father as maternal figures, the outdoor world was always home for Alvar. It was through them that Alvar grew so fond of the forests of Finland. The landscape’s ever-changing silhouette, meandering ridges and thick covering of tree trunks all bound to no rules of geometry, influenced Aalto’s passion for design. (Close up images of examples of this, glass vase wood slats etc) After moving to the lake districts in central Finland, Alvar attended one of the country’s first grammar schools. Whilst being there he displayed an ongoing passion for creativity by drawing portraits of the family and writing short stories. After his mother’s tragic death when Alvar was eight years old. Her sister, Flora came to the family as their father’s new wife.

Flora quickly became the children’s beloved ‘Mammu’. (Examples of Aalto’s paintings) At grammar school Alvar received a traditional education and the spirit of the school stayed with him. At the school’s centenary celebrations in 1958, Alvar Aalto gave a speech in which he thanked the school for “the gift of doubt it passed down to me as an inheritance”. Despite being dyslexic, He had finished his examinations with top grades in both Finnish and German in the summer of 1916. Immediately after this he started work experience with the architect Salervo. Alvar was told he would never make a good architect but instead should try to become a newspaper editor.

Undeterred he decided to show proof of his ability. Alvar’s Peers at the Helsinki Institute of Technology regarded him a gentleman, something his father had sent him off to be. He was very popular amongst the female students and would often be seen in classical attire, such as tail coats and suits. Whilst imprisoned during the Finnish civil war, he began to write ‘The Engineer’s Sons and Their Sister’. Which would be later confiscated after fears that Alvar was a member of the right wing Jaeger movement. Again, in 1918, his work was interrupted by the civil war. A hatred within Alvar had grown so strong that he had problems coming to terms with the Second World War. (Alvar in a suit, maybe examples of the civil war) “I’ll design a house that will keep you here in Finland” (alvar’s 1970 house) The workers house and theatre in Jyväskylä, 1924, was one of Aalto’s first important jobs. You can see that Mediterranean influence is prominent in it’s design.

From early in his career Alvar set out to unite this with his influences in nature. His love for the arts as a child was most likely the driving force behind Alvar’s decision to design this theatre inside and out (the workers union building and med influences example) Although he was not too fond of the technological revolution, flying was modern living to Alvar. In transit to his honey moon he once eulogised over the propeller of the plane… “One thousand and four revolutions per minute I beauty of a high order. There’s almost more art in that figure than in all the water colours and antique furniture In the world” The Paimio Sanatorium It was Alvar Aalto’s vision to create a truly functionalist piece of architecture. The ideology was that the buildings functions ere to visible from the inside and out. (Lift visible from outside) It was with this idea that Alvar designed the sanatorium at Paimio as a healing machine. The building would soon become one of the world’s finest examples of functionalist architecture.

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Alvar Aalto. (2019, Jul 24). Retrieved from