Aalto, Alvar (1898-1976)
Finnish designer and architect Alvar Aalto was one of the leading figures in 20th-century design. Aalto’s name is synonymous with the Modern movement but his designs reflected a strong Humanist influence, utilizing natural materials, such as laminated Birch Plywood, rather than modern materials such as tubular steel, to appeal to the psychological as well as the physical needs of man. He used the term ‘psychophysical’ to describe this concept.
Between 1929–33, Aalto designed the Paimio Tuberculosis Sanitorium in Finland, both the building and the furniture, and notably the Model No.41 Paimio bent wood chair.
An exhibition of his furniture at Fortnum & Mason, London, in 1933, and his design for the Finnish Pavilion at the 1939 New York World’s Fair, increased Aalto’s popularity, establishing him as an important talent in Modern design.
In 1935, Aalto, his wife Aino Marsio Aalto (1894–1949), Harry Gullichsen and Nils Hahl established a company, Artek, to manufacture his designs. Two further export companies followed: Finmar brought his work to England and Wohnbedorf in Switzerland supplied other European markets.
In 1938, Aalto designed the celebrated ‘Savoy’ glass vase for Finnish firm, Karhula-littala, translating his signature asymmetrical, fluid and organic designs from furniture to glass.
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