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[Architecture eBook] Alvar Aalto,Alvar Aalto and the Bio-Architecture

[Architecture eBook] Alvar Aalto,Alvar Aalto and the Bio-Architecture

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11/06/2012

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Alvar Aalto and the Bio-Architecture
Flavia FasciaDipartimento di Ingegneria EdileUniversità degli Studi di Napoli Federico IIPiazzale Tecchio, 50 - 80125 Napoli, ItalyPhone +39 081 7682130 fax +39 081 7682146E-mail: reiovino@unina.it
ABSTRACT:
 
A careful reading of the wide and qualified architectonic production of Alvar Aalto allows us to single out bio-climaticsolutions in several works of the Finnish Master.Alvar Aalto, whose architectonic production gave a considerable contribution to the development of the rational and organicarchitecture, has always kept in mind human demands. In this sense, it is useful to remember the S.Giedon’s way of thinking: “Wecan’t speak about Aalto as an architect without speaking about Aalto as a man: men have as much importance as architecture. Aalto’sinterest is to everybody, to each desire and experience, without exclusion of origins or social classes ... He approached beings directlyand without inhibitions; in the same way he approached wood as an organic material”.This paper aims to mark the bio-climatic aspects of some significant works: the Sanatory of Paimio, the Library of Viipuri and theBuilding whole of Kauttua.
1. INTRODUCTION
In the works of the Modern Movement architects, above all in Alvar Aalto’s ones, even if the Authors doesn’t face directly thequestions about bio-architecture, there is a particular care in the use of natural materials, in the insertion of the building in the naturalenvironment, in the best sunshine conditions and natural lighting . All these elements support the quality of life and are the rudimentsof the bio-architecture.The bases of Aalto’s planning are “nature and biology”; they are also the title of the introduction by Marcello Fagiolo to the essay“Idee di architettura - scritti scelti 1921-1968” published by Zanichelli and dedicated to him.Marcello Fagiolo declares that “the Aalto’s naturalism is a pattern of biological formation and growing”. This reference to the naturecan be easly found in the standardized planning too.According to him, in fact, standardization must be natural; in other words it has to be considered as a “system based on infinitesimalelements, that allows a continuous variability of shapes which grow organically”. Standardization in architecture must scour the samecourse of the biological pattern which affects the “life of shapes”. Architecture needs scientific researches in order to understand newdemands and to take society into an efficient system, where everybody can live in suitable biological conditions and where sun, airand light represent their essence.According to Aalto, architecture must involve all the aspects of human life; so the designer’s task is to put technology into men’sservice. Architecture, in particular, must always serve life and so must defence men, giving humanity to the our life of machines”.Planning means to hold in due consideration materials and building methods. During the International Congress of North LandBuilders at Oslo, in 1938, Alvar Aalto said:
“In ancient times – Micene – or in more remote ages, when the possibilities of using materials didn’t exist or were very few, nature – the sole supplier of raw materials – fixed a limit to the building possibility. The architecture of thoseancient times could be called ‘the architecture of the inventiveness’: in fact, being lacking every possibility to fit materials, they had to be used life-size. Above all block of stones, trunks of tree and skins of animals were used. Architecture was the right combination of such materials. This primitive art awakes among us queer feelings of admiration because in this period there were the first modest victories of the human mind against the raw and untouched nature. On this subject we can speak about the direct influence of materials and methods on architecture –nay – of the quite condition of dependence. Owing to the improvement of building science, the conditions of cause and effect aren’t so clearly differentiated any more. First of all materials coming directly from nature are replaced bybuilding materials; they don’t belong to the original untreated materials any more, but they are liable to a constant manufacture that rose and rises again in the architectonic process”.
From the Finnish Master’s words we can deduce that architecture mustn’t be a hole of buildings but a continuous evolving process,more and more complex, always addressed to new solutions, new shapes and new materials.
“Architecture is and remains a wonderful process of sinthesis in which thousands of human compenents are involved:it is always architecture. Further, its mission is to harmonize world with life”.
The reading of the architectonic production of Alvar Aalto, always marked by formal, functional and technological values, shows theinterest which the Finnish Master had in problems of bio-architecture. In fact, in his works it’s often possible to read some rudimentsof the bio-architecture:
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the use of natural materials;
the armonization of the building with the environment;
the study of the work, into details too, according to natural, psicological and spiritual human demans.
2. THE USE OF NATURAL MATERIALS
Even if Alvar Aalto often uses reinforced concrete to produce hisworks, there are remarkable examples of using wood and bricks.Among natural materials, wood is not only a living material but alsoa speaking one. It is thanks to the inventive richness of shapeoffered by this material that Aalto find a great comfort in “the fightagainst metal”. In several cases in the Aalto’s production we note areturn to origins. Aalto, in fact, considers:
“wood is a materialmore biological than traditional (…) it is a living materialthat grows from living fibres, such as human muscles”
. Wood,solemn and wild, is tamed and, as Marcello Fagiolo says
 ,“canalized in bunches of shapes-strenghts, and then stired up and climbed to limelight into an ironic ballett of tensionsand virtuosisms”.
Beside the Finnish Pavillion in the UniversalExhibition of New York – in 1939 – called “a wooden poem”, thereare a lot of other works were Finnish wood mark to architectonicspace: The Hall for Conferences in the Viipuri Library, the Hotel deVille in Saynatsalo, the Louis Carrè House in Bazoches-surGuyonne, the Cultural Centre of Wolfsburg.In the Exhibition Pavillion in New York (Figure 1) there is the true
 
Figure 1 The Pavillion of New York
 
Figure 2 The Hall for Conference of Viipuri’s LibraryFigure 3 The Hall of Council in the Hotel de Ville of Saynatsalo
 
realization of the Master’s tought:
“… I believe that architecture and arts have an abstract common origin, which foundson knowledges and experiences stored up in the subconscious …”.
This work seems – indeed – the synthesis of painting(owing to colour and heat of wood that covers the internal wall of the pavillion), carving (owing to the fall movement of the woodenlistels that cover the wall divided into four bands) and architecture (owing to the harmony of the space that entices visitors who wishto inquire about innovations). In this work Alvar Aalto opposes the internal wavy wall – that extends along the diagonal plain of theparallelepidic space – to the geometrical severity of the outside. All the strenght of the buildings is exactly in this wall, entirely woodcovered, that extends along a surface free from any geometrical severity. The wall is divided into four bands of reading, where each of them is by fit and starts with the other ones. The structure is inclined forward and the wooden listels, vertically assembled, make analternation of lights and shades. Is just the wood that Aalto considers “a preeminently natural material
“which gives a great emotive and evocative atmosphere to visitors”
.In the Hall for Conferences of the Library of Viipuri (Figure 2) the wood used for the covering of the ceiling and head walls plays notonly an emotive role but also the optimization of the acoustic conditions. Using the wooden covering, Alvar Aalto makes a trueacoustic surface which is able to optimize the time of reflection of the hall and to address the reflected acoustic waves so that thelistening conditions are excellent everywhere and whatever is the visitor’s position.In the Hotel de Ville in Saynatsalo wood still marks the Hall of Council (Figure 3). The covering of the hall, quite lined with a woodentable, is supported by a series of wooden trusses where struts are substituted by radial bands of wooden joists. Several open hands,formed by a lot of fingers, support the roof. The wood of pine, coming from the forests of Finland, is left in its natural condition.Also in this case, the architectonic space is marked by the natural colours of the organic essences of Finland.The Louis Carrè House, built in Bazoches sur Guyonne between 1956 and 1959, becomes perfectly a part of the landscapedominated by a wild hill that seems to penetrate in the same architectonic basin. A wooden false ceiling - indeed - (Figure 4) bringsvisitors from outside into inside, across the hall. The wavy surface of the false ceiling is so an element of continuity betweensurrounding wilds and the artificial space of the house.Once again it seems impressive the Aalto’s ability to express himself in a simple and natural language by means of wood.In the Cultural Centre of Wolfsburg, in Germany, we notice several marks which are dear to our Author: the fan-shaped bodyaddressed to the west and the skylights. Also in this product, wood marks the architectonic basin. In fact, in the great Hall forConference (Figure 5) a wide wavy surface, covered with wood, connects the surface of the covering with the bottom wall of theroom. Sun-light, spread by skylights opened in the covering, floods the wooden surface and exalts its presence. It is a piece of naturalenvironment, inclosed in the articificial space created by the man.As the tuff stone marks several spontaneous architectures in the Mediterranean basin, in the same way brick marks and qualifiesseveral Alvar Aalto’s architectures. The Finnish Master uses brick - potentially alive like men because created with mud - to produceremarkable buildings such as the House of Culture in Helsinki. Wright called brick 
“a little and modest object, that costs perhaps11 cents but has a particular characteristic: give me a brick and I’ll transform its value into a same weight goldeningot one”
. Aalto forces its parallelepidic form so much to create wide wavy surfaces that specify the great Auditorium (Figure 6).The special bricks studied by Aalto allow to produce this great wall marked by variable bending radious: big radious in the lightbending surfaces and very little radious in the connection surfaces.
 
Figure 4 The Louis Carré House in Bazoches-sur-GuyonneFigure 5 The Cultural Centre of Wolfsburg Figure 6 The House of Culture in Helsinki

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