|Birth Day:||February 3, 1898|
|Death Date:||May 11, 1976 (age 78)|
|Birth Place:||Kuortane, Finland|
As per our current Database, Alvar Aalto died on May 11, 1976 (age 78).
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He studied architecture at the Helsinki University of Technology beginning in 1916, but he left to fight in the Finnish War of Liberation alongside the White Army. He then returned to the University and graduated in 1921.
He studied at the Jyväskylä Lyceum school, where he completed his basic education in 1916, and took drawing lessons from local artist Jonas Heiska. In 1916, he then enrolled to study architecture at the Helsinki University of Technology. His studies were interrupted by the Finnish Civil War, in which he fought. He fought on the side of the White Army and fought at the Battle of Länkipohja and the Battle of Tampere.
In 1920, while a student, Aalto made his first trip abroad, travelling via Stockholm to Gothenburg, where he briefly found work with architect Arvid Bjerke. In 1922, he accomplished his first independent piece at the Industrial Exposition in Tampere. In 1923, he returned to Jyväskylä, where he opened an architectural office under the name 'Alvar Aalto, Architect and Monumental Artist'. At that time he wrote articles for the Jyväskylä newspaper Sisä-Suomi under the pseudonym Remus. During this time, he designed a number of small single-family houses in Jyväskylä, and the office's workload steadily increased.
He built his first piece of architecture while a student; a house for his parents at Alajärvi. Later, he continued his education, graduating in 1921. In the summer of 1922 he began military service, finishing at Hamina reserve officer training school, and was promoted to reserve second lieutenant in June 1923.
Upon returning to Jyväskylä in 1923 to establish his own architect's office, Aalto designed several single-family homes designed in the style of Nordic Classicism. For example, the manor-like house for his mother's cousin Terho Manner in Töysa (1923), a summer villa for the Jyväskylä chief constable (also from 1923) and the Alatalo farmhouse in Tarvaala (1924). During this period he completed his first public buildings, the Jyväskylä Workers' Club in 1925, the Jyväskylä Defence Corps building in 1926 and the Seinäjoki Defence Corp building in 1924–29. He entered several architectural competitions for prestigious state public buildings, in Finland and abroad. This included two competitions for the Finnish Parliament building in 1923 and 1924, the extension to the University of Helsinki in 1931, and the building to house the League of Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, in 1926–27.
On 6 October 1924, Aalto married architect Aino Marsio. Their honeymoon in Italy was Aalto's first trip there, though Aino had previously made a study trip there. The latter trip together sealed an intellectual bond with the culture of the Mediterranean region that remained important to Aalto for life.
The Aaltos designed and built a joint house-office (1935–36) for themselves in Munkkiniemi, Helsinki, but later (1954–56) had a purpose-built office erected in the same neighbourhood – now the former is a "home museum" and the latter the premises of the Alvar Aalto Academy. In 1926, the young Aaltos designed and had built for themselves a summer cottage in Alajärvi, Villa Flora.
On their return they continued with several local projects, notably the Jyväskylä Worker's Club, which incorporated a number of motifs which they had studied during their trip, most notably the decorations of the Festival hall modelled on the Rucellai Sepulchre in Florence by Leon Battista Alberti. After winning the architecture competition for the Southwest Finland Agricultural Cooperative building in 1927, the Aaltos moved their office to Turku. They had made contact with the city's most progressive architect, Erik Bryggman before moving. They began collaborating with him, most notably on the Turku Fair of 1928–29. Aalto's biographer, Göran Schildt, claimed that Bryggman was the only architect with whom Aalto cooperated as an equal. With an increasing quantity of work in the Finnish capital, the Aaltos' office moved again in 1933 to Helsinki.
Through Sven Markelius, Aalto became a member of the Congres Internationaux d'Architecture Moderne (CIAM), attending the second congress in Frankfurt in 1929 and the fourth congress in Athens in 1933, where he established a close friendship with László Moholy-Nagy, Sigfried Giedion and Philip Morton Shand. It was during this time that he followed closely the work of the main driving force behind the new modernism, Le Corbusier, and visited him in his Paris office several times in the following years.
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 (which was patented in 1933). 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.
Whereas Aalto was famous for his architecture, his furniture designs were well thought of and are still popular today. He studied Josef Hoffmann and the Wiener Werkstätte, and for a period of time, worked under Eliel Saarinen. He also gained inspiration from Gebrüder Thonet. During the late 1920s and 1930s he, working closely with Aino Aalto, also focusing much of his energy on furniture design, partly due to the decision to design much of the individual furniture pieces and lamps for the Paimio Sanatorium. Of particular significance was the experimentation in bent plywood chairs, most notably the so-called Paimio chair, which had been designed for the sitting tuberculosis patient, and the Model 60 stacking stool. The Aaltos, together with visual arts promoter Maire Gullichsen and art historian Nils-Gustav Hahl founded the Artek company in 1935, ostensibly to sell Aalto products but also other imported products. He became the first furniture designer to use the cantilever principle in chair design using wood.
It was not until the completion of the Paimio Sanatorium (1932) and Viipuri Library (1935) that Aalto first achieved world attention in architecture. His reputation grew in the US following the invitation to hold a retrospective exhibition of his works at the MOMA in New York in 1938, which was his visit to the US. The significance of the exhibition – which later went on a 12-city tour of the country – is in the fact that he was the second-ever architect – after Le Corbusier – to have a solo exhibition at the museum. His reputation grew in the US 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". It could be said that Aalto's international reputation was sealed with his inclusion in the second edition of Sigfried Giedion's influential book on Modernist architecture, Space, Time and Architecture: The growth of a new tradition (1949), in which Aalto received more attention than any other Modernist architect, including Le Corbusier. In his analysis of Aalto, Giedion gave primacy to qualities that depart from direct functionality, such as mood, atmosphere, intensity of life and even national characteristics, declaring that "Finland is with Aalto wherever he goes".
His increased fame led to offers and commissions outside Finland. In 1941 he accepted an invitation as a visiting professor to Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the US. Because of the Second World War, he returned to Finland to direct the Reconstruction Office. Post war, he returned to MIT, where he designed the student dormitory Baker House, completed in 1949. The dormitory lay along the Charles River and its undulating form provided maximum view and ventilation for each resident. This building was the first building of Aalto's redbrick period. Originally used in Baker House to signify the Ivy League university tradition, on his return to Finland Aalto used it in a number of key buildings, in particular, in several of the buildings in the new Helsinki University of Technology campus (starting in 1950), Säynätsalo Town Hall (1952), Helsinki Pensions Institute (1954), Helsinki House of Culture (1958), as well as in his own summer house, the Experimental House in Muuratsalo (1957).
Aino Aalto died of cancer in 1949. Aino and Alvar Aalto had two children, a daughter, Johanna "Hanni", Mrs Alanen (born 1925), and a son, Hamilkar Aalto (born 1928). In 1952, Aalto married architect Elissa Mäkiniemi (died 1994), who had been working as an assistant in his office.
In 1952, he designed and built a summer cottage, the so-called Experimental House, for himself and his new wife in Muuratsalo in Central Finland. Alvar Aalto died on 11 May 1976, in Helsinki, and is buried in the Hietaniemi cemetery in Helsinki. His wife and the office employees continued the works of the office which were still in progress. In 1978 the Museum of Finnish Architecture in Helsinki arranged a major exhibition of Aalto's works.
Aalto's awards included the Prince Eugen Medal in 1954, the Royal Gold Medal for Architecture from the Royal Institute of British Architects in 1957 and the Gold Medal from the American Institute of Architects in 1963. He was elected a Foreign Honorary Member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1957. He also was a member of the Academy of Finland, and was its president from 1963 to 1968. From 1925 to 1956 he was a member of the Congrès International d'Architecture Moderne. In 1960 he received an honorary doctorate at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU).
The early 1960s and 1970s (until his death in 1976) were marked by key works in Helsinki, in particular the huge town plan for the void in centre of Helsinki adjacent to Töölö Bay and the vast railway yards, and marked on the edges by significant buildings such as the National Museum and the main railway station, both by Eliel Saarinen. In his town plan Aalto proposed a line of separate marble-clad buildings fronting the bay which would house various cultural institutions, including a concert hall, opera, museum of architecture and headquarters for the Finnish Academy. The scheme also extended into the Kamppi district with a series of tall office blocks. Aalto first presented his scheme in 1961, but it went through various modifications during the early 1960s. Only two fragments of the overall plan were realized: the Finlandia Hall concert hall (1976) fronting Töölö Bay, and an office building in the Kamppi district for the Helsinki Electricity Company (1975). The Miesian formal language of geometric grids employed in the buildings was also used by Aalto for other sites in Helsinki, including the Enso-Gutzeit building (1962), the Academic Bookstore (1962) and the SYP Bank building (1969).
Following Aalto's death in 1976 his office continued to operate under the direction of his widow Elissa, completing works already (to some extent) designed. These works include the Jyväskylä City Theatre and Essen opera house. Since the death of Elissa Aalto the office has continued to operate as the Alvar Aalto Academy, giving advice on the restoration of Aalto buildings and organising vast archive material.
Aalto has an early place in any alphabetical list, and in May 2020 his entry in the combined index of Who Was Who was second out of 131,546 entries. First was Robert Aagaard, a furniture maker.
Currently, Alvar Aalto is 124 years, 7 months and 29 days old. Alvar Aalto will celebrate 125th birthday on a Friday 3rd of February 2023.
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