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Finland 1898; d. Helsinki, Finland 1976)
Alvar Aalto was born in Kuortane, Finland in 1898, the son of a surveyor. He graduated with honors from Helsinki Polytechnic in 1921 after which he opened his own practice. He held the position of Professor of Architecture at MIT 1946 to 1948, and was President of the Academy of Finland 1963-68.
Although his early work borrowed from the neoclassic movement, he eventually adapted the symbolism and functionalism of the Modern Movement to generate his plans and forms. Aalto's mature work embodies a unique functionalist/expressionist and humane style, successfully applied to libraries, civic centers, churches, housing, etc.
A synthesis of rational with intuitive design principles allowed Aalto to create a long series of functional yet non-reductionist buildings. Alvar Aalto generated a style of functionalism which avoided romantic excess and neoclassical monotony. Although Aalto borrowed from the International Style, he utilized texture, color, and structure in creative new ways. He refined the generic examples of modern architecture that existed in most of Europe and recreated them into a new Finnish architecture. Aalto's designs were particularly significant because of their response to site, material and form.
Aalto generated a large body of work in Germany, America, and Sweden. Often at work on multiple projects, he tended to intermingle ideas and details within his work. The spectrum of Aalto's work exhibits a sensual detailing that separates him from most of his contemporaries.
Aalto was a master of form and planning, as well as of details that relate a building successfully to its users. His buildings have provided renewed inspiration in the face of widespread disillusionment with high modernism on one hand, and post-modernism on the other.
Aalto died in Helsinki in May 1976.