Architecture and Furniture: Aalto

Architecture and Furniture: Aalto

Architecture and Furniture: Aalto

Architecture and Furniture: Aalto

Excerpt

Six years ago when the Museum of Modern Art opened the first exhibition of modern architecture in this country, attention was focused on the fundamental qualities of the new "International Style." The work of Gropius. Miës van der Rohe, Oud, Le Corbusier and others was shown to have been conceived with a basically functionalist approach, and to have been carried out with a common set of esthetic principles.

Since then, modern architecture has relinquished neither the functionalist approach nor the set of esthetic principles, but both have been modified, particularly by the younger men who have since joined the established leaders. Among these none is more important than Aalto.

Like the designs of other men first active in the '30's, Aalto's work, without ceasing in any way to be modern, does not look like the modern work of the '20's. The younger men employ new materials and new methods of construction, of course, but these only partly explain the change. The buildings of men working naturally in an already established style are less assertive of that style's tenets than those earlier and more puristic buildings which were establishing the style with a necesarily stringent discipline. Certain materials and forms once renounced because of their association with non-modern work are now used again, in new ways or even in the old ones. To the heritage of pure geometric shapes, the younger men have added free organic curves; to the stylistic analogies with the painters, Mondrian and Léger, they have added Arp. Personal and national qualities are more apparent than a decade ago.

Aalto's designs are the result of the complete reconciliation of a relentless functionalist's conscience with a fresh and personal sensibility. This reconciliation demands tact, imagination and a sure knowledge of technical means; careful study of Aalto's buildings show all three in abundance. The personal character is most obvious in the delightful inventiveness of his forms and his handling of materials. The national character, closely allied, can be seen in the general Scandinavian trimness, and above all in the use of wood. Finland's principal building material. Aalto's thorough knowledge of the various properties of wood guides his imagination in putting them to work architecturally, under the direction of his unique esthetic sensibility.

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