Artek 401 Armchair by Alvar Aalto

May 1st, 2010

     

Alvar Aalto designed this chair in 1932, but it wasn't produced en masse until he founded Artek in 1935.  Aalto viewed furnishure as an extension of the architecture, and this particular design evolved from his first large commission, the Paimio sanatorium in Finland.  To furnish the sanatorium, he first looked to Italian modernism and tubular steel for its hygienic qualities.  He decided the effect was too harsh for a sick environment and turned to wood for its warmer qualities, both physically and emotionally.  Sourcing technology from Nordic skis and aviation glues, Aalto developed a new construction process for manufactured solid frames by layering thin sheets of birchwood, and then pressing and bending them using steam.  The process yielded the same light, elastic qualities of the Nordic skis, which lead him to develop a line of chairs throughout the 1930's that rested on wooden runners rather than 4 legs.  Ironically, in the end, Aalto influenced the Italian designers by which he had first drawn influence from. 

Paimio Sanatorium

     

Caroline Engel for Danish Teak Classics

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