You probably recognize some of the titans of modern design, like Le Corbusier and Eames. But how about Alvar Aalto? If the name doesn’t ring any bells, find out how the Finnish legend is alive and well in our very own Coquitlam.
Aalto was a pioneer of modern architecture and furniture design. Born in Finland in 1898, Aalto first focused on Nordic Classicism — a style popular in Finland at the time. But multiple European vacations with his wife introduced him to the more international style of Modernism. And that’s where he found his groove.
But Aalto wasn’t content to replicate the stylings of his European colleagues. He wanted to ‘humanize’ modern design, feature local materials and create sensible furniture that complemented everyday life within the structure. His goal was Gesamtkunstwerk — ‘a total work of art’. It’s the idea that whatever is inside the home should blend with the home itself. It was a rebellious idea for the time.
That’s why Aalto’s furniture, lighting and glassware are probably as iconic as the buildings he created — so that his furnishings could work in harmony with the space. And the idea worked. His pieces are as desirable today as they were back then.
Consider his “Paimio” armchair from 1931. Made of bent, laminated birch, this simple yet artistic seat was originally created for long-term hospital patients. Today, an original Paimio will set you back a cool $5,000. Or consider the “Savoy” vase. First introduced in 1936, the fluid, curvilinear vase was designed for the luxurious Helsinki restaurant of the same name. Almost a century later, if you’re a Finnish couple set to walk down the aisle, you’re getting one of these vases for a wedding gift — that’s a fact.
Aalto’s designs are even credited for changing the history of something wildly outside his purview — skateboarding. In 1939, Aalto created Villa Mairea in Finland and, with it, the world’s first kidney-shaped swimming pool. That led the way for similar pool designs in the United States. Who knew that, when the California drought hit in the 1970s, this bowl-like pool would be a magnet for backyard skateboarders looking to master their sweet tricks.
For a fresh take on Finnish Modernism and Gesamtkunstwerk, have a look at our new, harmoniously designed Aalto Townhomes in the heart of Coquitlam.