Finnish architect and designer Alvar Aalto is one of the most prominent contributors to the worldwide fame of Scandinavian Modernism. He was a humanist, whose main goal in designing buildings and furniture was to offer comfort, aesthetic and pleasure to human beings. He once said "The ultimate goal of the architect...is to create a paradise. Every house, every product of architecture... should be a fruit of our endeavour to build an earthly paradise for people."
Born in Kuortane, Finland, Aalto experimented with many different styles throughout his career, from Nordic Classicism, Functionalism, Experimentation and finally at the mature level of his career, Monumentalism. However, there was always one thing that never changed in his style: the sense of Gesamtkunstwerk (a total work of art). He wanted his buildings to stand as complete works of art, with every element in harmony. Therefore, he designed his buildings' interiors, complete with surfaces, furniture, lamps and glassware. This is the main reason why he started to design furniture in the 1920s, collaborating with his first wife, Aino Aalto.
While he was designing the Paimio Sanitorium, his experimentation with bent plywood created one of his most famous designs, the Paimio Chair, which was originally designed for tuberculosis patients. Comfortable, yet light enough to be easily moved by patients, the chair’s frame is composed of two laminated birch loops; the seat and back are formed from a single sheet of plywood that scrolls under at the headrest and beneath the knees, creating a sort of pillow effect.
Aalto was highly innovative in his designs. He was an early adopter of the cantilever principle, which was used for bridges, for furniture design. He invented the Y-Leg and L-Leg designs. He was infatuated with wood, calling it a "form-inspiring, deeply human material". This love affair awarded him his genius in shaping the wood as if it was liquid, giving it the form and structure that created the signature Aalto look.
His designs quickly became a sensation around the world and he showed in an extensive exhibition in MOMA New York, taking the U.S by storm, earning the attention of many modernist American designers such as Charles and Ray Eames and George Nelson, who shared Aalto's humanistic ideals. His famous designs include the Aalto Lounge Chair, the Savoy Vase (now produced by Iittala), the Beehive and Golden Bell lamps. No matter what the product is, it carries the Aalto style: simple, organic, spirited.