Alvar Aalto

Finnish, 1898 - 1976
Across the Baltic Sea, a cadre of designers and architects seized on the principles of the International Style to move away from the classicism that had defined Nordic architecture during the first part of the twentieth century. Foremost among them was Alvar Aalto, who integrated certain elements of the Bauhaus—ribbon windows, flat roofs, undifferentiated white surfaces—into early building designs like the tuberculosis sanatorium at Paimio. Aalto strived for a spontaneous approach, sketching preliminary designs without the aid of a T-square and triangle.
As his career progressed, Aalto adopted a more expressive style, softening the clinical aesthetic of modernism with skylights, free architectural forms, and elements of organic design. This shift extended to his furniture, where he made use of warm and natural materials. Alvar Aalto furniture was the first maker to use the cantilever principle, associated with the Brno chairs of Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, to create wooden pieces like a Tank Chair upholstered in leather and the Model 36/86.
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