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Alvar Aalto: The Pioneer in Finnish Architecture

Postage Stamp Printed in Finland Shows Death of Alvar Aalto 1898-1976 Architect, Serie. Image of vintage.

When Hugo Alvar Henrik Aalto was born, the Finnish architecture was standing for the 1800s what was mostly orientated for national romanticism, jugend, and neo-renaissance that landed in Finland from Europe in the middle of 1800 s. When Helsinki was chosen to represent the new main city in Finland, the whole structure base was reorganized for more highfalutin shapes. Especially national romanticism took its place at the end of the 1800s when one of the biggest names in Finnish modernism was born.

Aalto started his career as a student in a technical university that guided him to study architecture and how the direction was based on the early 1900s, in a national romantic way. The feeling as an expression was a remarkable tool. In the student community, he used to be a lively person with high-performance skills, and the visual was a big part of his life in a diverse way. Some of his coworkers were architecture students or somehow linked to the designing of miniatures. One of her female assistants eventually became a remarkable milestone of his future as a legend. He married the interior designer, Aino Marsio, in 1924, their different personalities supported each other especially in designing processes. His wife´s down-to-earth attitude and really deep connection to her man was an invincible combination to guarantee the projects successfully to the production. Her realistic temperature calmed Aalto´s way to act with the impulse and many of his works included the honorary award in reference to Aino Marsio. When she passed away in the 1950s, it was a devastating process for Aalto, he still managed to keep his massive popularity on top with his charismatic nature to create connections by polishing their company´s image at the same time. That decade was on top of the historical construction changes so his strong mentality kept the glory was worth it. Aalto´s ideology as a designer was never to lean on too much history and role models that guided him, he was a rebel in concrete actions to be a leader in all aspects from detailing to the actual construction production.

 Kirsi Alastalo (2016).
Kirsi Alastalo (2016). Arkkitehtuuri Taivas Moderni.

The Finnish breakthrough

In the early 1900s, the world exposition created some space for international grace in Finnish architecture. The international exposition in New York Aalto gained some glory for Aalto with his wavy work in the art wall, which became one of his best-known designs. Aalto was an aircraft enthusiastic so it was self-evidence that there were inspirational figures from the technical environments and the shapes from Finnish nature, lakes as a reminder of the land with thousands of them. In 1930, the typical architectural season was leaning on functionalism that favored the modern twist in practical use. The machines and techniques evolved with fast speed and were the targets of the main designs. When Aalto was only 29 years old, he created the bottom of his first modern building based on functionalism before he even had seen any of them in a real context. He got some inspiration by visiting the magazine buildings in Sweden and Norway. The flying buttress was the main key in the process of functional building, it enabled the movement between the dividing walls when it was necessary. The first office building for the magazine in Turku was built between 1929–30, eventually, buildings and regional design became a big part of his territory.

Aalto´s style is very traditional Finnish, individualistic, and humanistic with a warm touch, his cornerstone was based on inventive detailing and connecting the right proportions around nature. The lightning reached a whole new level as a visual and technical part of the architecture. Aalto joined the international modern architect- society (Les Congrès Internationaux d'Architecture Moderne, CIAM) in 1929, that way he established his position as a social designer in a modern apartment and as a city designer. Later on, he expanded his talent as a furniture designer, his first piece of furniture for a tuberculosis sanitarium was established in 1931–32.

Artek Oy, the sales and marketing company was established in 1935 for the modern designing of furniture, textiles, and light fixtures, it´s timeless beauty had an enormous interest in the international market. Aalto´s furniture and other designs are still founded by different generations but with the touch of diversity. They speak the human mind and still get attention by the uniqueness of details. Alvar Aalto left the permanent legacy with his designs to continue the connection between nature and modern thinking and is still the best-known Finnish as a modern designer internationally.


Viljo, E. (1997). Kansallisbiografia-verkkojulkaisu. Aalto, Alvar (1898 - 1976) | SKS Henkilöhistoria

P-SSAFA.COM. (2021). Historiallinen katsaus Suomen arkkitehtuuriin Suomalainen arkkitehtuuri 1800-luvulla.

P-SSAFA.COM. (2021). Käytännönläheinen funktionalismi.


Author Photo

Heidi Hokkanen

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