Born, raised, and educated in Finland, Alvar Aalto became the most iconic designer of the Finnish Modernism Movement.
Aalto entered the Helsinki University of Technology in 1919 after serving in the Finnish war of national liberation. In the Post-WWI era, the multi-national entanglement within the war had, in a sense, brought the European countries closer together, which lead to an urgent pandemic need for individualistic national identity.
It was in this environment that Aalto developed his romantic reactions to the sterile modernism developing in Germany. Aalto’s designs are often artistic, humanistic, and a bit witty and ironic, but most of all, organic. These undulating organic structures were not only visually exciting in the way they challenged the conventional rules of geometry, but they came to symbolize the political freedom of Finland. Despite the originality of his designs, he proved that artistic expression and regional inspiration did not have to be compromised for the benefits of standardization, industrialization, and mass-production.
Aalto pioneered much of the design work in bentwood techniques and was granted several patents on these in multiple countries. Aalto’s design principle was comprehensive, believing the interior concepts and furnishings must be in harmony with the whole of the building. He designed his first piece of furniture before he was a registered architect, and continued this practice throughout his very successful architectural career, starting with his first large commission, the Paimio Sanitorium (1928-1933). The demand for his furniture lead to the founding of Artek in 1935, which Aalto supervised until his death in 1976.