“The very essence of architecture consists of a variety and development reminiscent of natural organic life. This is the only true style in architecture.” Alvar Aalto
Aalto’s insistence on the importance of design and formal expression in our lives and his adept handling of materials, light, and space; explain why he is one of the great architects of the twentieth century. He was also a town planner, painter, and designer. The principles of classical architecture are evident in Aalto’s early work. This influence remained and was later synthesized with modern architectural expression during his mature period. He was able to assimilate both Nordic and Continental influences emanating from Berlin, Weimar, and Paris. Aalto quickly proved himself a master of the burgeoning International Style.
Aalto’s attention to the ‘the human side’ was evident throughout his buildings and furniture design such as the Paimio chair. He developed innovative techniques to bend wood, enabling him to design furniture, which was simultaneously modern, yet human to the touch. In 1933, his furniture designs were rapturously received in London. Aalto’s furniture began to be distributed worldwide, finding its way into numerous design-conscious homes.
We can see the influence of the Paimio design in many of the key features of Aalto’s mature manner. Compositions assembled from deliberately varied forms and materials. The juxtaposition of rectilinear and free, ‘organic’ geometries epitomized by his love of counterpointing a straight and undulating line. ‘Aalto’ means ‘wave’ in Finnish. It was only natural that the wave would become his signature. Aalto was noted for his fastidious attention to detail and a conspicuous concern with the building as a complete environment to be experienced by its occupants through all their senses, not just their eyes.
The Aalto wave assumed magisterial form in the three-storey suspended wall billowing through the Finnish Pavilion at the 1939 New York World’s Fair.
Throughout his career, Aalto was presented internationally as the ‘humaniser’ and ‘naturaliser’ of a cold, overly rational modern architecture, and the radical implications of his painterly approach to architectural form went largely unremarked. Aalto painted throughout his life, thinking of it as a useful ‘aesthetic exercise’, and learnt more than any architect from the technique of collage invented by Braque and Picasso in 1912. Lurking in all his work from Paimio onwards, collage techniques became dominant in the design of one of his great masterpieces, the Villa Mairea (1937-40). Collage also enabled Aalto to adopt a richly varied palette of materials, combining ‘traditional’, and ‘modern’.
Commissioned by the wealthy industrialists Harry and Maire Gullichsen. The collage technique enabled him to respond brilliantly to his clients’ request for a house, which was both modern and unmistakably Finnish. Aalto’s brilliant synthesis of color, material, form, and scale convey something of the power of his architectural work The most radical development of all came in the interior, which Aalto vi