Aalto's story: they said yes to design and to each other

Aalto's story: they said yes to design and to each other


Eliška Koukalová

The couple Aino and Alvar Aalto was brought together by love for design and architecture. They were inseparable partners at home and in fulfilling visions under the common brand Artek. The Aalto couple went side by side towards their dreams for almost a quarter of a century. The most recognizable of their designs are the sanatorium Paimio, Villa Mairea or iconic stools Artek 60.

He was described as a bohemian who was not afraid to live. She as a carefully organized and shy girl. It was 1924 when Aino Mandelin first crossed the threshold of Alvar's office, where she also began working. Only six months later, she signed her last name as Aalto. Even their honeymoon, as well as the holidays, could not be spent by the newlyweds in any other way than in the name of architecture and design. They therefore traveled to Italy, which was typical of young beginning architects at the time. The style of the local buildings significantly influenced the work in the so-called classical Nordic period. The work of both spouses, despite being Finns, belongs to the Scandinavian design. 

Aino Aalto
Aino Aalto on the terrace of the Sanatorium Paimio

Alvar Aalto
Alvar Aalto in his office

One body and one soul, they went through not only their personal life, but also through their careers in which they complemented each other. Both Aino and Alvar can hardly be separated in an attempt to find out which of them had a larger share in a given design or piece. In Finland and among design lovers, we probably won't find anyone who doesn't know the name Alvar Aalto. But few people know that his fame hid his wife's work in his shadow. As the brand Artek, which they founded in mid-30's, also declared they were completely equal.

Alvar Aalto1930s
Alvar Aalto in front of Villa Mairea, 1930s

Alvar Aalto 1960s
Aalto Studio, 1960s

In husband's shadow

The fact that Aino was mostly in the background was mainly the result of the period in which they formed. At that time, men's architects usually received recognition, and Aino was often labeled only as Alvaro's wife or glass designer. She herself designed several pieces of Aino Aalto glassware for the Iittala brand and worked with her husband in designing Savoy vases, which are included in the Alvar Aalto Collection.

Aino Aalto a Alvar Aalto
Aino and Alvar Aalto

And the Artek was born

The philosophy of both of them was in harmony with the idea of total design, that combines visual beauty and functionality. The Aaltos sought above all to intertwine technology with art. This is also the origin of the common brand Artek, which already connects both fundamental sources with the name (Art and Technology).

Artek nábytek
Iconic furniture of Artek

Artek Paimio
The 41 Armchair „Paimio“, designed in 1932

Stool 60 1935
Iconic Artek 60 stootls, 1935

Another important work of their career is the Finnish sanatorium for patients with tuberculosis called Paimio, which is one of the objects proposed for inclusion on the UNESCO list. With that came the iconic Paimio chairs made of bent plywood, which Artek sells to this day and which are perceived as a breakthrough in the design of furniture of the time. This is also the source behind the design of the iconic 60 stools. Both pieces of furniture Alvar designed for mostly seated patients with tuberculosis.

Paimio Sanatorium Aalto
Terrace of the Paimio Sanatorium

Paimio Sanatorium Aalto
Sanatorium Paimio

One of their most famous works is Villa Mairea, which the couple built in the late 1930s. While Alvar worked mainly on the appearance of the building, Aino designed the interiors and furniture. The well known Maison Louis Carré is also their work.

Maison Louis Carré
Maison Louis Carré

Maison Louis Carré
Maison Louis Carré

Villa Mairea Artek
Villa Mairea

Villa Mairea
Villa Mairea

Villa Mairea
Villa Mairea

The joint days of Aaltos were filled by traveling for inspiration and exploring new materials. The work of the famous couple was interrupted by a serious illness. In 1949, Aino sadly passed away to cancer, which was very traumatic for Alvar. Three years later, Alvar remarried and spent the rest of his life alongside Elissa Aalto, also a designer and architect. 

Jste z Česka? Přejděte na Příběh manželů Aalto: řekli ano designu i sobě
Ste zo Slovenska? Prejdite na Príbeh manželov Aalto: povedali áno dizajnu aj sebe

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