Work of Alvar Aalto Term Paper

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Alvar Aalto

Architecture is rightly considered as one of the most important of the Art categories. Unlike a painting or a sculpture, it is not something passive that can be hung on the wall or kept in a museum; they do little to impact us or our environment in a manner that Architecture is able to do so. Therefore it is not surprising that Architecture and the creators of it, which is the Architect, seem to have such an important place in the world of Arts.

Architecture has been defined as the very container of space in which we act, move, sleep and live our overall life; therefore, it becomes an important epicenter of our life. We interact with a space day in and day out, and therefore it should be functional and have the necessary details that are instrumental in fulfilling human needs. Sometimes these needs can be more cultural than functional, but nonetheless, it is the job of that particular piece of Architecture to fulfill these needs since they too form an important part of the human experience. And a person who can create such a space is no doubt a genius. It is no wonder than that so many names from the world of Architecture are hailed as true pioneers or trendsetters in their own right, who have left the world with new thoughts and ideas to follow and develop upon.

In the world of Architecture, there are far too many names that are today considered to be a true source of inspiration for the upcoming generations of Architects and Artists alike. Alvar Aalto is one such name that has continued to inspire many in the field of Architecture by his work and what he has been able to capture through his work and contribute to the world.

Hugo Alvar Hendrik Aalto or more famously Alvar Aalto is one of the most prominent Finish Architect to have ever lived and many of his designs are still considered as great landmarks and national treasures of Finland. Alvar Aalto has earned a reputation as not only one of the most celebrated architect of the 20th century but also as a modern furniture designer, and many of his works, namely his 1931 chair "Paimio" and his curvilinear designed vase "Savoy" from 1936, have worked as the foundation for organic design (Alvar Aalto n.d).

Born in 1898, Alvar Aalto studied in Helsinki Technical Institute from 1916 to 1921, and during his time there, he had the opportunity to work under Armas Lindgren, who is an icon in his own way for the Finish people as both an artist and an Architect. Born in 1874, Armas Lindgren enrolled in the Polytechnical Institute in 1892 and completed his Architecture degree by 1897. His interest in Art History took him on many trips and it was with this vast knowledge that he joined the Profession of teaching, and was even nominated as the Professor of Architecture at the University of Technology in 1919 (The National Board of Antiquities 2009).

During the starting years of his career, he worked as an exhibition designer, which resulted in his many travels throughout Europe and ultimately resulted in greatly expanding the horizon for Alvar Aalto, as he became much familiar with the current practices and trends in Art and Architecture that were being practiced in Europe. It was only in 1923, that he started his own practice in Jyvaskyla, until it finally moved to Turku in 1927 and eventually to Helsinki in 1933.

Numerous of his works have been credited for being the finest examples of Modernism; these works especially include his Municipal library in Viipuri (1927-35), The Paimio Sanatorium (1928-33), Villa Mairea (1937 -- 38), Senior Student's Dormitory at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, Massachusetts (1947-1948). In many of his buildings he even considered the details of the interiors, with special emphasis on the furniture. For this, he experimented with many several materials including the bending of plywood and laminated wood, which can be found in many of his furniture's forms. It was at this point that he also started becoming fascinating with standardization, which was taken a step forward by Alvar Aalto, his wife Aino and friends in 1935 in the shape of a company called the Artek Company, the basic purpose of which was to market the designs and furniture on an international level. Some of his famous chairs included, Paimo, L-leg chair, Y-Leg Chair and Fan-Leg Chair, besides many others, including a vase for a restaurant in Helsinki in 1936 and a tea trolley even in the year 1938.

The work of Alvar Aalto has been defined by Flavia Fascia as having their base in "nature and biology" (Fascia n.d.), which would not be a very wrong description, especially when one considers buildings like Paimio Sanatorium. But there are far many more consideration that are the basis of the design of Alvar Aalto, the most important of these have been the integration of natural lighting and the environment into the design.

Aalto's work is much focused on anchoring it with the tradition and the memory of what Finish Architecture has been all about. Not only this, his architecture even tends to be much organic, drawing inspiration for its inception from the very surroundings that it is a part of the context (Fores n.d.).

Another important school of thought that is much visible in the work of Alvar Aalto is the concept of Phenomenology, a philosophy much popular in the 20th Century Europe (Smith 2011). Whereas in the West, the focus has always been more on the visual perception, the philosophy of Phenomenology tends to lean more towards a holistic experience that one gains through their interaction with a place or any environment or situation for that matter. It places great emphasis on experience on a multi-sensory level, and the work of Alvar Aalto is very much based on this philosophy (Bowring n.d.). In his buildings, the extensive use of colors and texture and vegetation all go on to add to the sensory experience that one would get out a context. Instead of focusing on one aspect or sense, mostly the visual in the West, Aalto made his buildings an all-encompassing experience.

There is much debate and discussion on the fact that how did Architecture come into being and in the primitive notion of space, Architecture was nothing more than the identification of space for a certain purpose and ordained with a particular task. That task was connected with the surrounding context and the very primitive and the basic nature of human life back then and much of this has been discussed by Simon Unwin. It is these primitive nature and association of men with the hearth (fire place), performing place (theater), a place for worship (altar), all of these places tend to bring out the association that people had with the past.

This multi-sensory experience has been defined by Juhani Pallasmaa as being one that "incorporates dislocations, skew confrontations, irregularities and poly-rhythms in order to arouse these bodily, muscular and haptic experiences. His elaborate surface textures and details, crafted for the hand, invite the sense of touch and create an atmosphere of intimacy and warmth. Instead of the disembodied Cartesian idealism of the architecture of the eye, Aalto's architecture is based on sensory realism; his buildings are not based on a single dominant concept or Gestalt; they are sensory agglomerations" (Shirazi 2009).

The concept of Phenomenology relies greatly on the meaning on the materials that are employed in any building or a space, which provoking its own meaning and memory in the mind of the person who is experiencing that space. As Juhani Pallasmaa describes it in the essay "Hapticity and Time," every material has a language of their own through which they communicate, for example, a brick may communicate its association with "earth and fire," wood may speak of the forests and stone of its "geological origins."

Alvar Aalto although being defined as a Modernist Architect broke away from the code that was imposed by Le Corbusier upon International Architecture and greatly deviated from the general course of Modernistic design. His design was oriented around the basic human needs that are the soul of any Architecture project, and this is much evident from his design of Villa Mairea, which in a fact seems like a critique of Corbusier's Villa Sovoye. However, unlike Villa Savoye with its philosophy "a house is a machine for living," Villa Mairea consists of a more human scale and touch made possible by the use of various materials within the entire composition. The house has been integrated with the Modern Concepts and the "traditional architecture, materials, life-style, and landscape of Finland" thus making it truly original and relevant (Twentieth Century Achitecture n.d.). Unlike the Villa Sovoye, the house is not based on the mechanical movement; instead it adds warmth and a feel of comfort to the house. However the design of the houses and the way…[continue]

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