Alvar Aalto – Magus of the North – Finnish Design

When I was a child I was obsessed with one particular finnish personality: Tommi Makinen. What I liked about him was his well defined personality and his extreme talent. Back then I did not realize that this well defined personality was in fact a very defining characteristic in finnish people. This unique way of being and doing is very common in Finland and Scandinavia (as you can see here).


Obviously, at this point, you’re wondering why the title mentions Alvar Aalto but instead there’s a photograph of a red Mitsubishi. Well, Tommi was an artist in his own way, but this post is not actually about him, just this small introduction.

This post is about Alvar Aalto, the great Finnish architect and designer.


Hugo Alvar Henrik Aalto was born in 1898. His early professional career was a direct consequence of a growing Finland, as later a growing Finland was a direct consequence of Alvar’s professional career. He was one of the fathers of the Scandinavian Artistic Movement.



Winner of Royal Gold Medal for Architecture from the Royal Institute of British Architects (1957) and the Gold Medal from the American Institute of Architects (1963)




His style reaches from Nordic Classicism (in the early part of his career) to a more organic and natural style. He had a Gesamtkunstwerk approach to every project, meaning that he would always look to improve the global experience of every project.

Finlandia hall

The Finlandia Hall building is great example of a structure which is both good to look at and to be in. Every detail of it was meant and designed by Aalto. It comprehends, amongst others, an auditorium, a congress hall, a restaurant and many other features.


Another case worthy of mentioning is the Enso-Gutzeit Building, in which Alvar’s work, drank a few lines directly from the fountain of Ludwig Mies van der Roha.


Alvar’s legacy is huge. Besides dozens of building with the Aalto signature, there’s also the Alvar Aalto Museum, the Alvar Aalto Academy and the Alvar Aalto Foundation.

Quoting from the museum’s website:

“The Alvar Aalto Museum works for the benefit of a better everyday environment and design culture, based on the lifetime’s work of Alvar Aalto and his humanist and ecological values.”

It’s fair to say that Alvar’s legacy will prevail.

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