ALVAR AALTO: A Designer You Can Look Up To

Hugo Alvar Henrik Aalto - Photo by danish design review
Alvar Aalto Paimio Chair 1931–1932 – Photo by 1stDibs

Born on 3 February 1898, Hugo Alvar Henrik Aalto was a renowned designer and architect who hailed from Finland. The major work of this man included glassware, textiles, furniture, paintings, sculptures, and architecture. Despite the fact that Hugo Aalto never considered himself to be an artist, he saw sculpture and painting as brushwood of the tree that had a trunk as its architecture.

The early career of Aalto early ran can be compared with the swift economic development and industrialization of Finland in the first half of the 20th century and a lot of his customers were manufacturers. Right from the 1920s to the 1970s, his career span showed in the styles of his work.

A concern for design as a Gesamtkunstwerk, an absolute work of art is what is typical for the entire career of Hugo Alvar. Himself and Aino Aalto, his first wife designed a building and also gave special treatments to the interior surfaces. On the other hand, they designed lamps, furniture, glassware, and furnishings.

The furniture designs of Hugo were well thought-out Scandinavian Modern, from the point of view of a feeling for materials, particularly wood, and oversimplification but also technical experimentation, which prompted him to get patents for an assortment of manufacturing processes, like the bent wood. The Alvar Aalto Museum situated in the home city of this designer was designed by Aalto himself.

The Life History of Hugo Alvar Henrik Aalto

Alvar Aalto portrait – Photo by New World Encyclopedia

Hugo Aalto was born to Henrik Aalto and Selma Matilda in Finland. The family of Alvar Aalto moved out of Finland when Aalto was 5 years old. In 1916, he finished his elementary education and attended drawing lessons from a local artist. That same year, he registered to study architecture in the university. However, his education was disrupted by the Civil War of Finland, which he equally fought.

In 1920, Aalto made his first trip overseas where he worked briefly as an architect in 1920, while he was still a student. He, however, accomplished his first autonomous design in 1922.

His first design of architecture was also built while he was still a student. This was the house he built for his parents in his home city. He later continued his education and graduated in 1921. He started his official military service in the summer of 1922, and at the completion of the training, he was promoted in June 1923 to reserve second lieutenant.

His Return to Jyvaskyla

Hugo went back to Jyvaskyla where he established his first architectural office in his Alvar Alto’s name in 1923 as an Architect and Monumental Artist. He also wrote articles for a newspaper.  During this time, He designed some petite single-family houses, while the workload in the office increased steadily at this time.

His Marriage and Honeymoon Trip to Italy

Riola Parish Church in Vergato (Italy) by Alvar Aalto – Photograph by Franco Di Capua

Aalto got married to architect Aino Marsio on October 6, 1924. They travelled to Italy for their honeymoon, making it the first time Aalto will travel there, despite the fact that Aino studied there before. It was this trip these couples made together that sealed an intellectual bond with the Mediterranean region culture that was left essential to Aalto for the remaining part of his life.

In 1952, Aalto later married Elissa Makiniemi who was an assistant in his office, after his first wife died of cancer in the year 1949.

Back to Home Land

They continued with some local projects when they returned back to their country. These projects included some motifs which they had studied when they travelled to Italy, the majority remarkably the decorations of the Festival Hall.

The Turku Experience

In 1927, the Aaltos relocated their office after emerging as the winners of the architecture competition for the Cooperative building. Before moving, they had contacted the most successful architect of the city, and they then started working together on the Turku Fair of 1928 to 1929.

The 1933 Office Relocation to Helsinki

Alvar Aalto house and studio in Helsinki – Photo by The Modern House

The Aaltos relocated their office to the above-named city in 1933, when they discovered that their work in the Finnish capital had increased tremendously. From 1935 to 1936, the Aaltos designed and built a collective house and office for themselves in their new location. However, from 1954 to 1956, they afterwards had a purpose-built office in the same vicinity.

Today, the former house is used as a home museum, while the latter building is named after him as an Academy. In 1926, the young Aaltos designed and built a summer cottage for themselves.

Furniture Career

While Aalto was prominent for his architecture, his furniture designs were exceptional and are still the rage these days.  In the late 1920s and 1930s, he worked intimately with his wife and also paid close attention to many of his liveliness on furniture design, partially owing to the resolution to design much of the personal furniture pieces and lamps.

His Works

Artek Bar Stool 64 – Photo by Scandinavia design

The wide field of design activity of Aalto includes painting, glassware and furniture design, interior design, architecture design, and large scale of city planning. It was however estimated that during the entire career of Aalto, he designed more than 500 personality buildings, about 300 of which were built, the cosmic majority of which are in Finland. In addition, he has a few buildings in the USA, Italy, Germany, and France.

The E60 High Stool designed by Aalto is presently used for seating by customers in Apple Stores all over the world. These stools were completed in black polish. They can also be used for special events and seminars where seating is required.

On the other hand, Aalto was dominant in introducing contemporary art to the understanding of the Finland people, particularly the work of his friends.

Aalto designed and built a summer lodge for both himself and his new wife in Finland in 1952.

Awards and Honors

Aalto won many awards and honours in recognition of his contribution to the development of Finland.


Alvar died on the 11th day of May 1976 with his wife carrying on with the activities of the business with workers of the company till date.