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THEORY OF ARCHITECTURE: ALVAR AALTO

Definition of Terms
THEORY
Theory is a proposition or a system of concepts and ideas intended to
explain something, especially one based on general principles independent of
the thing to be explained. It is also defined as something like a set of principles,
analysis, a plausible or scientifically acceptable general principle or body of
principles offered to explain a phenomena, or used to account for a situation or
justify a course of action.
In theory, everything is interrelated with each other. Every part of a whole
gives emphasis to a certain concept or explains the details of a bigger picture.
PHILOSOPHY
Philosophy is the study of the fundamental nature of knowledge, reality,
and existence, especially when considered as an academic discipline. It can also
be defined as the study of the theoretical basis of a particular branch of
knowledge or experience.
Someone's attitude or idea about how to live or about how to do
something can be his own philosophy in life. This can act as his guiding principle
for behavior and stronghold in his decision making.
DICTUM
Dictum is a formal pronouncement from an authoritative source. It is
basically a noteworthy statement or expression of opinion on a point other than
the precise issue involved in determining a certain case.
It is a statement of ruling coming from a reliable source that expresses or
states an advice, general truth or a principle.

THEORY OF ARCHITECTURE

THEORY OF ARCHITECTURE: ALVAR AALTO

Alvar Aalto
Date of Birth: 3 February 1898, Kuortane, Finland
Date of Death: 11 May 1976, Helsinki, Finland

Alvar Aalto (Hugo Alvar Hendrik Aalto), was not


only the most important Finnish architect but also a
modern furniture designer. His chair "Paimio" (1931), and
his vase "Savoy" (1936) have become major design icons
that have organic design. Alvar Aalto studied architecture
under Armas Lindgren at the Helsinki Technical Institute from 1916 to 1921. He
then worked as an exhibition designer, traveling throughout Europe and thus
acquiring a knowledge of contemporary trends in architecture and art.
In 1923 Alvar Aalto opened his own architectural studio in Jyvskyla. In
1924 he married Aino Marsio (1894-1949), who collaborated with him as a
designer in his studio from 1925.
In 1928 Alvar Aalto became a member of the "Congrs International
d'Architecture Moderne" (CIAM), a series of architecture conferences, which
provided a major source of inspiration for related to urban planning and
architecture as living space.
From 1943 to 1958 Alvar Aalto was head of the Finnish Architects'
Association SAFA, from 1946 to 1948 he was a professor of architecture at the
Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, Massachusetts. After the
death of his wife Aino, Aalto married the architect Elsa (Elissa) Mkiniemi in
1952. From the outset Alvar Aalto was not just an architect; designing objects
and furniture played an important role in his practice.
Two of his most important early buildings are the municipal library in
Viipuri (1927-35) and the tuberculosis sanatorium in Paimio (1928-33), where he
also designed the entire interior and furniture and its furnishings. Together with
Aino, Alvar Aalto experimented with plywood and laminated wood for furniture
from 1925. From 1929 Aalto continued to experiment in collaboration with Otto
Korhonen, technical director of a furniture factory near Turku. In the 1930s he
produced chair designs with extraordinary forms, including Paimio and in 1933
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THEORY OF ARCHITECTURE: ALVAR AALTO


the "L-leg" stackable chair with L-shaped legs. In 1935 Alvar Aalto, his wife Aino
and friends founded the Artek company to ensure international marketing and
distribution of his furniture and other designs. The L-leg chair was followed by
the "Y-Leg" (1946-1947) and the "Fan-Leg" (1954).

In 1936 the Aalto practice designed the entire interior of the Savoy, a
luxury restaurant in Helsinki, and with it the glass vase of the same name. From
1938 he produced the "tea trolley" with large wheels. By 1936 Alvar Aalto was
showing vases and tableware at the design competitions launched by Iittala,
through which objects of Finnish designs were chosen to be shown at the 1937
Paris Exposition.
Alvar Aalto also designed the Finnish Pavilions for the 1937 Paris
Exposition and the 1939 New York World's Fair. In 1938 the Museum of Modern
Art in New York mounted the first large-scale retrospective of Alvar Aalto's work,
followed by others in 1984 and 1998. Starting with the influence of the Arts and
Craft and the International Modern movements with overtones of Finnish National
Romanticism with its preference for natural materials, Alvar Aalto arrived in both
his buildings and his furnishings at an interpretation of functionalism that was
distinctively his own.
Concerned with "humanizing architecture" (Aalto), he rejected artificial
materials such as steel tubing for his furniutre. Wood was for him a "forminspring, profoundly human material". Alvar Aalto's organic formal language
inspired many designers after him.

THEORY OF ARCHITECTURE

THEORY OF ARCHITECTURE: ALVAR AALTO

THEORY
Alvar Aaltos ability to create rationalist architecture with an organic
language of form, and his way of combining materials and making the landscape
part of the building are unique. Aaltos architecture is still discussed by students
and lovers of architecture all over the world.
Aaltos design philosophy was inspired by nature and organic materials,
unlike other furniture of the same period with materials as tubular steel, which
were quite modern at the time. Before he became an architect, he designed
vases with curvilinear bases and straight sides for Savoy Restaurant Turku in
1937 which produced by Iittala glass work.
Aaltos early works was inspired by the neoclassic movement, but he
eventually adapted symbolism and functionalism of the Modern Movement to
make his plans and forms. Aalto's mature work embodies a unique
functionalist/expressionist and humane style, successfully applied to libraries,
civic centers, churches, housing, and other structures.

Aaltos vase

Finlandia Hall Helsinki, Aaltos building


that shows Expressionist

Architecture
A combination 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
THEORY OF ARCHITECTURE

THEORY OF ARCHITECTURE: ALVAR AALTO


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 inter mingle ideas and details within
his work. The spectrum of Aalto's work exhibits a sensual detailing that
separates him from most of his contemporaries.

Aaltos sketch showing functionalist


architecture
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.

PHILOSOPHY
"We should work for simple, good, undecorated
things, but things which are in harmony with
the human being and organically suited to the
little man in the street."

- Alvar
Aalto
The design of artifacts took on a fairly important role in his office and he
designed pieces of furniture for various clients, tinged with the revivalist styles
that followed the spirit of the age. Already at the end of the 1920s, he started to
investigate the latest trends in the architectural field and modern international
furniture design. Paimio Sanatorium (1929-1933) was the first building Aalto
designed that was furnished entirely with his own factory-made furniture.

THEORY OF ARCHITECTURE

THEORY OF ARCHITECTURE: ALVAR AALTO

Interior of Paimio Sanatorium


Finland

Paimio Sanatorium,

Aalto's modern furniture is essentially linked with inventions about the


bending of wood. He was granted patents on several of these inventions in a
number of different countries in the 1930s 40s and 50s. According to Alvar
Aalto's design principles, the interior design and furnishings had to be in
harmony with the architectural style of the building.

Aaltos chair designs showing the bending of wood

Alvar Aalto was also considered as


one of the Organic Architects. This kind
of architecture promotes harmony
between human habitation and world
through design approaches so
sympathetic and well integrated with its
site, that buildings, furnishings, and
surroundings become part of a unified,
interrelated composition.
Interior of Vilpuri Library, Russia

DICTUM
"Architecture must create
buildings which are
conceived as a total artistic
expression."
Alvar Aalto lived at the peak of expressionism and neoclassic movement.
He had a passion for symbolism, and applied these philosophy on architecture.
All of his works shows harmony in color, in form, in shape and with the nature.
THEORY OF ARCHITECTURE

THEORY OF ARCHITECTURE: ALVAR AALTO

"We should work for simple, good, undecorated things,


but things which are in harmony
with the human being and organically suited to the
little man in the street."

Aalto was a fan of functionalism. All of his designs follow the function of
the structure. Also, he was one of the organic architects.
Once I tried to make a standardization of staircases.
Probably that is one of the oldest of the standardizations.
Of course, we design new staircase steps every day in
connection with all our houses, but a standardized step
depends on the height of the buildings and on all kinds of
things.
Architecture is innovative. It keeps evolving into a new style. Most
buildings keep on getting bigger and higher, so the standardization of staircases
is not permanent. It will keep on changing functionally and aesthetically.
The ultimate goal of the architect is to create a
paradise. Every house, every product of architecture,
should be a fruit of our endeavor to build an earthly
paradise for people.
Aalto stated that building a complex center is harder than making a house.
He did not only think of the structures functions. He also considered the comfort
of the clients and the ambiance of the architecture.
Architecture is not merely national, but clearly has
local ties in that it is rooted in the earth.
Architecture does not come in big scale. A country is not
defined by one architectural style. It has a mixture of different
cultures. From different cultures come the variations of architecture.

THEORY OF ARCHITECTURE

THEORY OF ARCHITECTURE: ALVAR AALTO

Famous Structures:
1. VILLA MAIRA
A house camouflaging among the countless birch trees in the Finnish
landscape, Villa Mairea, built by Alvar Aalto in 1939 is a remarkable house that
shows the transition from traditional to modern architecture.
It was built as a guest house and
rural retreat for Harry and Maire
Gullichsen in Noormarkku,
Finland. Aalto was given
permission to experiment with
his thoughts and styles, which
becomes clear when studying
the strangely cohesive
residence.

The theme of shifting and advancing technology is present in Aalto's


design. The transformation of materials used can be seen on the fences and
walls around and through the villa.

THEORY OF ARCHITECTURE

THEORY OF ARCHITECTURE: ALVAR AALTO


Starting at a shorter mound of compacted dirt rises a
fence roughly woven together from long sticks. Regularity
arises as it lengthens and the sticks become more directional
and linear, until it merges with the wooden walls of the
grass-roof sauna which continues on to form the roof of an
outdoor space and walkway.

Through the house, this same concept of a


morphing
technology continues. From a stone, it will shift to a
stone slab,
to the glass and steel in the winter garden room.

From the front door to the inside of the


house, the materiality of the floor also changes as it
becomes progressively more domestic and intimate,
from stone to tiles to timber boarding and rugs.
The sea of birch trees that surrounds the house was being copied by the
columns existing throughout the house and posts found on the staircase.

Aalto purposely makes each column different, to avoid all artificial


architectural rhythms. For him, the concept of artificial seems to imply
mechanically tectonic and one-dimensional logic. The rhythmic arrangements of
the Villa have the character of the irregular rhythms of nature.
THEORY OF ARCHITECTURE

THEORY OF ARCHITECTURE: ALVAR AALTO

The main living area appears to open and


close,
which gives off an atmosphere of walking through
the forest.

A wall between the bookcase partitions of


the library
and ceiling has formed made by a forest light that shine
through the surging screen. It was made as such to further
imitate the experience of being outdoors. Upon exiting out of
the front door, one is submerged in a row of these columns, which are placed
specifically by Aalto to emphasize the continuity found between the environment
of both inside the villa and out.

Aalto combines a modern open


plan with the ghost of a traditional-style
tupa. It is a large living room of a
farmhouse in which poles from the ceiling
to the ground mark the boundaries of
areas created specifically for different
activities. The basic L-shape of the floor
plan is very characteristic of Scandinavian
architects and is also found in his other
house Munkkiniemi, another hint towards
a more traditional style.
Juxtaposed against these rigid right angle forms that mark edges and
boundaries of spaces and textures alike are wave-like forms which are
considered by some as symbols of human freedom. Aalto remarked that the
curving, living, unpredictable line which runs in dimensions unknown to
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mathematics is for me the incarnation of everything that forms a contrast to the
modern world between brutal mechanicalness and religious beauty in life. This
free-form is found throughout the house, from the shape of the swimming pool
and balcony spaces to other smaller finer details, like the fireplace.

Villa Mairea stands out as Aaltos most


passionate legacy of poetic inspiration,
personal dedication and the art of play. It is
frequently listed as one of the most
important one-family houses of the 20th
century along with the Villa Savoye (Poissy 1929) of Le Corbusier, the Tugendhat
House (Brno 1930) by Mies van der Rohe, the Glass House (Paris 1932) by Pierre
Chareau and Bernard Bijvoet and Frank Lloyd Wrights Kaufmann House (Bear
Run, PA 1939).

2. MIT BAKER HOUSE DORMITORY


Alvar Aalto designed the Baker House in 1946 while he was a professor at the
Massachussets Institute of Technology (MIT), where the dormitory is located. It received its name in
1950, after the MIT's Dean of Students Everett Moore Baker was killed in an airplane crash that year.

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The dormitory is a
curving snake slithering on its
site and reflects many of Aalto's
ideas of formal strategy, making
it a dormitory that is both
inhabited and studied by
students from all over the world.

Plan
"The site runs along the
north side of the Charles River and from the very start Aalto's plans seek to find ways of maximizing
the view of the river for every student.

Early sketches
show clusters of rooms
facing south and,
because a simple singlesided slab would not
contain sufficient rooms,
several ways of
increasing the density: by parallel blocks in echelon, by fan-shaped ends, and by the "giant gentle
polygon" resolving itself into a sinuous curve, that was finally adopted." The building's undulating form
also does not subject the views of the rooms to be oriented at right angles towards the busy street.
The form established a wide variety of room shapes, creating 43 rooms and 22 different room shapes
per floor that although similar, still required distinct designs for the placement of built-in furniture.

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The plan is composed around a
single-loaded corridor. Aalto refused to
design north-facing rooms since he wanted
most rooms to have a view of the river from
the east or west, and thus proposed
enlarging the rooms on the western end into
large double and triple rooms that receive
both northern and western light

Instead of rooms, a stairway


systems is housed on the north side of the
building with an unobstructed view of its
surroundings.

Built with dark red rustic bricks, the modular pieces


come together to create sweeping curves that juxtapose the
solid limestone of the attached rectilinear common room. The
common room is a calm static space in comparison to the
movement of the dormitories.

The lower floor is lit with circular lights and the upper
floor has views of the river. Structural columns are covered in
plastered on the lower floor and as they rise up towards the
second level, timber cladding allows them to form a
relationship with the trees.

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The Baker House went through four major renovations since it was
completed in 1948, including a replacement of all the windows, making the
building wheelchair accessible, a renovation of the mechanical systems, and a
restoration of birch furnishings.

despite these renovations, the attention to detail in the Baker House


dormitory brought the essence and formality of Aalto's work into America.

3. Maison Louis Carr


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Situated on southwest, about 40 kilometers from the residence of


Bazoches-Sur- Guvonnes in Paris, lies one of the most important work of Alvar
Aato: the Maison Louis Carr. The client, Louis Carr, was a well-known French art
dealer who was also very interested in architecture. He desired a house that
would be able to have room for many guests for art viewings, but also
incorporated a private component. He commissioned Aalto to design his house in
1956, and Louis Carr and his wife, Olga, were able to move into their new home
three years later.

Aalto took great care in designing the total experience of Maison Louis Carr. In
order to reach the house from first entering the site, one must walk up the
sloping path to the top of the hill. This long path, as well as its distance away
from Paris, gives the house a private, sanctuary-like feeling. Aalto specifically
placed the house at the top of the site, providing ideal views to the south. The
main exterior feature is the gradual sloping of the roof, which almost appears as
an extension of the hill below.

The materials used in Maison Louis


Carr were purposefully chosen. The exterior is a
clean-cut, white-rendered brick. The stone is
local sandstone, the same stone used for
Chartres Cathedral twenty kilometers away.
Pinewood from Finland is used on the interior,
while vertical wooden louvers are occasionally
revealed on the exterior as well and most
prominently at the main entrance.

Just as in Villa Mairea, Maison Louis Carr is a residence that combines


both public and private life. Guests enter through the main entrance and are
confronted with a large wall used for displaying art, an important feature for
Louis Carr. Guests are then directed down the wide Venetian stairway into the
living room through careful design techniques by Aalto, such as the slight organic
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curve of the ceiling. This spacious living room contains large windows that span
the entire length of the wall, providing views of the grassy hill and, today, a large
woodland. Other public spaces of the house include a small library attached to
the living room and a dining room on the opposite end of the entrance hall.

Maison Louis Carr experiments with the technique of layering in a number of ways.
For example, behind the wall used for displaying art is the hallway that leads to the private
areas, including the bedrooms and guest rooms. The housekeepers rooms are located on
the second floor of the house. Aalto designed the home so that one must move through
multiple layers in order to reach the most private areas of the house.

As in many of his other works, Aalto created a complete


work of art with Maison Louis Carr, combining buildings,
garden, furniture, and interior design. Much of the furniture and
light fixtures in the house were specifically designed just for this
building. Aalto included many subtle, yet substantial details as
well, both interior and exterior. A swimming pool, a plant-room
building, and a garage are all located behind the house.

Site Plan Drawing

Plan Drawing

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Elevation Drawing

Section Drawing

REFERENCES:
http://www.archdaily.com/85390/ad-classics-villa-mairea-alvar-aalto
http://www.villamairea.fi/en/villa-mairea/architecture
http://www.aalto-alvar.com/
http://architect.architecture.sk/alvar-aalto-architect/alvar-aalto-architect.php
http://www.imdb.com/name/nm2043227/bio
http://www.alvaraalto.fi/architecture_design.htm
http://www.metalocus.es/content/en/blog/alvar-aalto-1898-1976-organicarchitecture-art-and-design
http://www.greatbuildings.com/architects/Alvar_Aalto.html
http://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/Alvar_Aalto
http://www.designophy.com/designpedia/design-designer-1000000008-alvaraalto.htm
http://www.metalocus.es/content/en/blog/alvar-aalto-1898-1976-organicarchitecture-art-and-design
http://www.azquotes.com/author/2-Alvar_Aalto/tag/architecture
http://quotes.lifehack.org/quote/alvar-aalto/just-as-it-takes-time-for-a/
http://www.archdaily.com/61752/ad-classics-mit-baker-house-dormitory-alvaraalto
http://www.archdaily.com/356209/ad-classics-maison-louis-carre-alvar-aalto
GreatBuildings.com

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