Alvar Aalto so inspiring at Cité de l’architecture!

A general view of the show with Aalto’s iconic chairs (the Fauteuil 26  in green) under the brick arcades of Cité de l’architecture

We all know Finnish designer and architect Alvar Aalto‘s emblematic Savoy vase and wooden stools but at Cité de l’architecture‘s retrospective, we learn more about him, his many churches and office buildings, and we discover his own house and offices. It is a beautiful show under the brick arcades of the museum at Trocadero. And since Aalto was mostly preoccupied with daily life, it is a good occasion to think about one’s own decor.

Tea trolley 900, collection Vitra design museum

The countrysides of Finland are the base for the conception of the exhibition. The organic inspiration as well as the symbolic expression of nature have inspired Aalto’s free shapes and his participation in the CIAM (International congress for modern architecture) in 1929, in Paris,  allowed him to meet such important artists as Fernand Léger, Jean Arp, Alexander Calder and Laszlo Moholy-Nagy. All these friends are included in the show through photographs, mobiles or sculptures. Aalto’s furniture  was already distributed in France in 1933 and he had his first exhibition at MoMA in New York in. 1938;

Wooden mold for the Savoy vase, Design Museum Helsinki

When he started a project, Alvar Aalto took charge of the complete work  and designed architecture, furniture, lamps, vases and chose the works of art. The Maison Louis Carré , 55 kms from Paris in Bazoches sur Guyonne, was started in 1956 and completed in 1963. It is a good example of his multifaceted talent.

Louis Carré, an art dealer since 1938,  and the architect met at the 1956 Venice Biennale where Aalto had built the Finnish pavilion. They realized they liked the same artists. Carré was close to Le Corbusier, and had organized with him an exhibition called “Supposedly primitive arts in today’s house”. He asked Aalto for “a small house on the outside and large on the inside with a steep roof”. Aalto designed everything including fabrics and the house has become an “oeuvre d’art”.

Table for Maison Louis Carré, ca 1958

After the war, so much had been destroyed in Finland that he participated in the national effort and built many housing projects. He also worked as an urbanist in Säynätsalo and started travelling abroad intensively, becoming de facto the Ambassador of Nordic art. Jorn Utzon, the Danish architect who designed the Sydney Opera, was a friend and admirer of his. He also designed his own furniture which was often part of the walls of the house.

Armin Like, 2014, Photo of Alvar Aalto’s summer house in Muuratsalo

Aalto built dormitories at MIT, in Cambridge, in 1946, worked in Germany, Switzerland and Italy as well as in Bagdad. The exhibition is filled with large photographs commissioned from Berlin photographer  Armin Linke, who shows his buildings in Finland and in Russia (in 1927) in a lively artistic way.

The famous Savoy vase is available at Sentou

It is a delight to wander around even if, like me, you are not an architect. One understands the little details that make life beautiful, such as a well designed stool, a suspension or a vase. And most of the smaller objects can still be acquired.

Until July 1, at Cité de l’architecture, Trocadéro. Savoy vases can be found at Sentou. And his stools can be found at the Conran Shop,on rue du Bac.

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2 Comments on “Alvar Aalto so inspiring at Cité de l’architecture!”

  1. Brigid Williams

    Those huge arches seem like a perfect foil for Aalto’s idiosyncratic use of curves. His are so surprising yet somehow inevitable, sensuous without being insistent. Your review is a perfect mini-history of that period. Like David, I’d love to go … !

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