Alvar Aalto

Second Nature

The architectural critic Sigfried Giedion called him the “Magus of the North”: Alvar Aalto (1898–1976) is the best known Finnish architect of his generation and a chief proponent of a different, more human modernism. His buildings such as the Paimio Sanatorium (1933), the legendary Villa Mairea (1939) and the church of the Three Crosses in Vuoksenniska (1958) embody a masterful interplay of organic volumes, forms and materials. From door handles and lighting fixtures to built-in furniture, Aalto frequently designed complete interiors down to the smallest detail. Aalto’s Paimio Chair (1931–1932) and his S60 Stool (1933) were milestones in the development of modern furniture that inspired subsequent generations of designers. The emblematic Savoy Vase (1936) has become the symbol of Finish Design.
With »Alvar Aalto – Second Nature«, Vitra Design Museum, in close collaboration with the Alvar Aalto Foundation, has conceived the first major retrospective exhibition available to several international museums on Aalto’s work since 1998. The exhibition gives an extensive overview of Aalto’s life and work, presenting around 20 historical architectural models, 40 original drawings and 80 pieces of furniture, lamps and glass ware. The presentation of Aalto’s most important buildings is enriched by selected artworks of Aalto’s contemporaries. A new look at Aalto is emphasized by the work of renown photographer Armin Linke, who has been commissioned to produce new photographs and films of selected buildings. Linke's exclusively commissioned works appear throughout the whole exhibition setting, in dialogue with historic and archival material from the Alvar Aalto Foundation and other international lenders. While previous exhibitions and publications have regarded Aalto’s organic architectural language as having been derived directly from Finnish nature and landscape, »Alvar Aalto – Second Nature« takes a new, more complex and more contemporary look at Aalto’s oeuvre. 
The exhibition explores how Aalto’s interest in organic form was mediated through a close dialogue with the Fine Arts of his time and how his image as the nature loving Finn was, at least in part, constructed. For the first time, it sheds light on the international network that the cosmopolitan Aalto entertained from the late 1920s onwards and which included important artists of his time such as László Moholy-Nagy, Jean Arp, Alexander Calder or Fernand Léger. The cosmopolitan Aalto, who had a strong interest in cinema, film, photography and theater, quoted Léger by calling himself a “chef d’orchestre” conducting all the arts to synthesize a harmonious, symphonic whole. In this sense, Aalto created living spaces that appear warm and organic, saturated with a masterful combination of spaces, terraced floors and ceilings, building materials and choreography of daylight and electric light, almost like a second nature. On a broader scale, Aalto’s relations to countries such as Italy, Switzerland, France, Germany, the UK and the USA, also reflected geopolitical issues of Finland as a country on the fringes of Europe, navigating, geographically and historically, between West and East.
»Alvar Aalto – Second Nature« is an exhibition of the Vitra Design Museum and the Alvar Aalto Museum, Finland.

600 – 1,000 m² / 6,000 – 10,000 sq ft

688 pages, approx. 500 images

Jochen Eisenbrand

Detailed information
Photos Vitra Design Museum
Photos CaixaForum Barcelona
Press Images
Video 1
Video 2

Exhibition tour
27.04.2019 – 23.06.2019, Aomori Museum of Art, Japan
16.02.2019 – 14.04.2019, Tokyo Station Gallery, Japan
08.12.2018 – 03.02.2019, Nagoya City Art Museum, Japan
15.09.2018 – 25.11.2018, The Museum of Modern Art, Hayama, Japan
06.03.2018 – 01.07.2018, Cité de l'Architecture et du Patrimoine, Paris, France
08.05.2017 – 24.09.2017, Ateneum, Finnish National Gallery, Helsinki, Finland
27.01.2017 – 17.04.2017, Museum of Modern Art Aalborg, Denmark
30.09.2015 – 10.01.2016, Caixa Forum, Madrid, Spain
03.06.2015 – 23.08.2015, Caixa Forum, Barcelona, Spain
26.09.2014 – 01.03.2015, Vitra Design Museum, Weil am Rhein, Germany

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