Happy 125th Birthday Alvar Aalto

Today is the 125th birthday of the architect and designer Alvar Aalto. He is most immediately recognized as the designer of that bouncy cantilevered chair whose mass-marketed cousins are still popular at IKEA. The world is a better place because he was in it and still feels the loss that he has left.

NAME: Alvar Aalto
FULL NAME: Hugo Alvar Henrik Aalto
DATE OF BIRTH: 3-Feb-1898
PLACE OF BIRTH: Kurotane, Finland
DATE OF DEATH: 11-May-1976
PLACE OF DEATH: Helsinki, Finland
REMAINS: Buried, Hietaniemi Cemetery, Helsinki, Finland
WIFE: Aino Marsio (architect, m. 6-Oct-1924, d. 13-Jan-1949, 2 children)
DAUGHTER: Johanna (b. 1925)
SON: Hamilkar (b. 1928)
WIFE: Elissa Aalto (architect, m. 4-Oct-1952)
Prince Eugen Medal – 1954
Royal Gold Medal for Architecture from the Royal Institute of British Architects – 1957
Gold Medal from the American Institute of Architects – 1963

BEST KNOWN FOR: Hugo Alvar Henrik Aalto was a Finnish architect and designer. His work includes architecture, furniture, textiles and glassware, as well as sculptures and paintings. He never regarded himself as an artist, seeing painting and sculpture as “branches of the tree whose trunk is architecture.”

Alvar Aalto was born on February 3, 1898, in Kuortane, Finland. He studied architecture at the Helsinki University of Technology, where he developed an interest in functionalist architecture and the use of natural materials. After graduation, he worked in several architectural firms before opening his own office in Jyväskylä in 1923.

Throughout his career, Aalto’s work was characterized by his use of organic forms and his attention to functional design. He was particularly interested in designing buildings that were in harmony with their surroundings and that reflected the local culture and landscape. His works often incorporated the use of natural materials, such as wood and brick, and were known for their elegant and simple forms.

Some of Aalto’s most famous works include the Finnish Pavilion at the 1937 Paris World’s Fair, the Viipuri Library in Vyborg, and the Helsinki University of Technology. He also designed several private houses and public buildings, including schools, hospitals, and cultural centers.

In addition to his architectural work, Aalto was also a talented furniture designer and created a series of furniture pieces, including chairs and lamps, that are now considered design classics.

Aalto died on May 11, 1976, in Helsinki, Finland. His legacy as a pioneering architect and designer continues to influence contemporary architecture and design, and his works are widely recognized as some of the most innovative and timeless designs of the 20th century.


Alvar Aalto is the eponym of the Alvar Aalto Medal, now considered one of world architecture’s most prestigious awards.

Aalto was featured in the 50 mk note in the last series of the Finnish markka (before its replacement by the Euro in 2002).

The centenary of Aalto’s birth in 1998 was marked in Finland not only by several books and exhibitions, but also by the promotion of specially bottled red and white Aalto Wine and a specially designed cupcake.

In 1976, the year of his death, Aalto was commemorated on a Finnish postage stamp.

Piazza Alvar Aalto, a square named after Aalto, can be found in the Porta Nuova business district of Milan, Italy.

Aalto University, a Finnish university formed by merging Helsinki University of Technology, Helsinki School of Economics and TaiK in 2010, is named after Alvar Aalto.
An Alvar Aallon katu (Alvar Aalto Street) can be found in five different Finnish cities: Helsinki, Jyväskylä, Oulu, Kotka and Seinäjoki.

In 2017, the Alvar Aalto Museum launched Alvar Aalto Cities, that is, a network of cities containing buildings by Alvar Aalto. The objective of the network is to increase awareness of Aalto’s work both in Finland and abroad. It is hoped that by combining forces on communications and marketing, the visibility and accessibility of exhibitions, tourist attractions and events will be improved. To date, the network city members are: Aalborg, Alajärvi, Espoo, Eura, Hamina, Helsinki, Imatra, Jyväskylä, Järvenpää, Kotka, Kouvola, Lahti, Oulu, Paimio, Pori, Raseborg, Rovaniemi, Seinäjoki, Turku, Vantaa and Varkaus. It is estimated that in total there would be 40 cities worldwide that would qualify as an Alvar Aalto City.

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