Alvar Aalto

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The friendship with Göran Schildt

Göran Schildt met Alvar Aalto during his academic years when Aalto was the president of the film club Projektio. Schildt was a member as well, but no stronger contacts were made at this time. It was actually several years later, in 1953, that Schildt and Aalto became good friends. Schildt then visited Aalto's office together with his Italian friend Roberto Sambonet. Göran Schildt describes his fascination with Aalto in the following words:

"From that day I was irretrievably drawn into the magic circle around the cheerful socialite, the ingenious artist and the worldly-wise humanist.”

Aalto gladly showed his drawings to Göran Schildt and they traveled together in Finland, Italy and Egypt. They both had a great interest in Mediterranean culture and engaged in many conversations regarding this. After Aalto's death in 1976 Göran Schildt wrote a biography about the architect in three volumes.

Alvar Aalto's life

Alvar Aalto was born on February 3, 1898 in Kuortane and lived there until 1905, when the family moved to Jyväskylä. The family included his father, the district surveyor J. H. Aalto, mother Selma Matilda (b. Hackstedt) and four children. The following year Aalto's mother died and his father remarried Selma's sister Flora Hackstedt.

Alvar Aalto matriculated from Jyväskylä Lyceum in 1916 and continued his education at the Helsinki Institute of Technology (later Helsinki University of Technology and now a part of the Aalto University). After qualifying as an architect in 1921, Aalto set up his first architectural practice in Jyväskylä and hired architect Aino Marsio (1894-1949) as an assistant. They married in 1924 and had two children.

In 1927 the family moved to Turku after Aalto had won the competition for Southwestern Finland Agricultural Cooperative Building in Turku. Turku was an inspiring city, and Aalto had his agency there until 1933. It was during this period he planned Paimio sanatorium which was completed in 1932. Paimio sanatorium is what you might call a complete work of art. Aalto designed the interior, including lighting, sanitary ware, examination tables, etc. It was with this building, he partially managed to break through internationally, although his big breakthrough came with furniture.

After the success of the Paimio-project Aalto decided to try his luck in Helsinki and opened an office there in 1933. The architects in the Helsinki area belonged to the old generation and it was not very easy for him to get a job there. His cooperation with the carpenter Otto Korhonen was a great success and Aalto was therefore not dependent on clients from Helsinki.

In his planning Aalto drew attention to nature and planned his buildings based on this. His most famous creations include Villa Mairea in Noormarkku, the Finlandia Hall in Helsinki and the Aalto Centre in Seinäjoki.

1952 he married Elissa Aalto Mäkiniemi. His first wife Aino had died in 1949. Together with Elissa he bought an Experimental House in Muuratsalo where he could try out his ideas, especially regarding the use of different kinds of bricks.

1958 Aalto pulled back from public life and focused more on writing and drawing. He won several architectural competitions in the end of the 50s including Kiruna City Hall, Aalborg Art Museum, the Theatre in Essen. In the 60s, he was responsible for the planning of major projects like the Seinäjoki and Rovaniemi city centers. 1963-68 Aalto worked as head of the Academy.

Aalto died in 1976 and is buried at Hietaniemi Cemetery.

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