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Alvar Aalto - Father of Modern Scandinavian Architecture



Alvar Aalto (1898-1976), Finnish architect

Alvar Aalto (1898-1976), Finnish architect

Image © Alvar Aalto Foundation, modified © 2008 Jackie Craven.
black and white photo of international modernist style library by Finnish architect Alvar Aalto

Viipuri Library designed by Finnish architect Alvar Aalto in Vyborg, completed in 1935. Photo by Fox Photos/Getty Images

black and white photo of architect Alvar Aalto in his 60s at his architectural drawing board

Alvar Aalto at his drawing board, Finland, 1962.

Photo by Romano Cagnoni/Hulton Archive/Getty Images, ©2007 Getty Images

Born at the cusp of Modernism, Finnish architect Alvar Aalto became famous for both his buildings and his furniture designs. Aalto's unique style grew out of a passion for painting and a fascination for the works of cubist artists Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque.


February 3, 1898 in Kuortane, Finland


May 11, 1976 in Helsinki, Finland

Full Name:

Hugo Alvar Henrik Aalto


Graduated with honors in architecture from Helsinki University of Technology

Important Buildings by Alvar Aalto:

Also Known For:

Alvar Aalto also became famous for his furniture and glassware design. With his first wife, Aino Mariso, Alvar Aalto founded Artek, a company that continues to sell innovative furnishings.

Artistic Influences:

Alvar Aalto's passion for painting led to the development of his unique architectural style. Cubism and collage , explored by the painters Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque, became important elements in Alvar Aalto's work. Alvar Aalto used color, texture, and light to create collage-like architectural landscapes.

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Important Styles:

More About Alvar Aalto:

Early works by Alvar Aalto combined neoclassical ideas with the International Style. Later, Aalto's buildings were characterized by asymmetry, curved walls, and complex textures.

Alvar Aalto received international acclaim with the completion of the Paimio Tuberculosis Sanatorium. The Sanatorium building established Aalto's dominance of the International style and, more importantly, emphasized Aalto's attention to the human side of design. The patients' rooms, with their specially designed heating, lighting and furniture, are models of integrated environmental design. Alvar Aalto's Paimio chair (1932) assisted patient breathing.

The term Nordic Classicism has been used to describe some of Alvar Aalto's work. Many of his buildings combined sleek lines with richly textured natural materials such as stone, teak, and rough-hewn logs.

Alvar Aalto was also known for furniture and industrial design. In 1932, he developed a revolutionary type of furniture made of laminated bent plywood.

To learn more about the life and work of Alvar Aalto, see:

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