Alvar Aalto’s life
Finnish-born Alvar Aalto became a world-famous architect and designer.
“Nothing that is old can be reborn. But nor will it disappear entirely. And that which once was, always returns in some new form.” Alvar Aalto, 1921
The 125th anniversary of Alvar Aalto’s birth on February 3, 2023 will be a flagging day in Finland in honour of Finnish architecture and design. “In this anniversary year, we want to tell the general public about the extent of Alvar Aalto’s life’s work in different periods. That includes his childhood and youth, collaboration with both Aino and Elissa Aalto, the history of his architect’s office and, finally, the fostering of its heritage. The output of Aalto’s office and the many themes it raises are topical today. Aalto was an advocate of humane design and of taking nature into account – subjects that speak to us right now,” says Alvar Aalto Foundation CEO Tommi Lindh.
Alvar Aalto (1898–1976) and his architect wives Aino Aalto (1894–1949) and Elissa Aalto (1922–1994) all aspired to achieve integrated designs, in which the architecture and interior of a building – the lighting, furnishings, textiles, and outdoor spaces – are almost seamlessly articulated into a unified whole. Everyone at Aalto’s architect’s office worked towards a common goal – sustainable architecture and design marked by a human-centred approach and a connection with nature.
The Alvar Aalto 125 anniversary year embodies the spirit of Aalto and lets us look through the multi-coloured kaleidoscope of the architect’s production and heritage. The national Architecture and Design Days 2023 festival – on 1–5.2.2023 to coincide with Aalto’s birthday – is hosting events in several Alvar Aalto cities around Finland.
At the Alvar Aalto Foundation the anniversary year opens at 13:00–16:00 on 2.2.2023 with a event open to all: Aalto uudessa muodossa – 125 vuotta Alvar Aallon syntymästä at Helsinki City Hall. The celebrations continue on 3.2.2023 at the Museum of Central Finland on Alvar Aalto’s birthday with Aalto2Museokeskus esittäytyy, the Aaltoa yhdessä workshop, plus cake and coffee at 12:00–17:00. These are all part of the Architecture and Design Days; entrance free.
The highpoint of the anniversary year is the opening on 27.5.2023 of the Aalto2 museum hub. It combines two Alvar Aalto-designed edifices, the Museum of Central Finland (1956–61, 1991) and the Alvar Aalto Museum (1971–73). The new section built between the two museums has been designed by Arkkitehtitoimisto A-Konsultit Oy and forms a connection between the two buildings, where people can experience a fascinating piece of the history of Central Finland and delve into Alvar Aalto’s thrilling architecture and design.
The museum hub’s major opening exhibition Ihmisen jäljet – maailmanperintöä / Human Traces – World Heritage takes up world-heritage themes ranging from Aalto’s architecture to the Finnish sauna tradition. The public can learn about the local cultural heritage in the Museum of Central Finland’s permanent exhibition Exploring Central Finland. The Alvar Aalto Museum’s new main exhibition AALTO – Work and Life introduces Aalto’s production and the ideas behind his design to constantly new target audiences.
Picks from the Alvar Aalto 125 anniversary-year events:
2.2.2023 at 13:30–16:00 Aalto uudessa muodossa – 125 vuotta Alvar Aallon syntymästä
Helsinki City Hall lobby, Pohjoisesplanadi 11–13, Helsinki
The occasion celebrates the Alvar Aalto 125 anniversary, the Aalto2 museum hub due to open in May, and the 90th anniversary of Paimio Sanatorium. Free entry, advance registration here. A livestream of the event can also be viewed on the Helsinki channel.
3.2.2023 at 12:00–17:00 Aalto2 -museokeskus esittäytyy
Museum of Central Finland, Alvar Aallon katu 7, Jyväskylä.
Aalto’s birthday will be celebrated by an exhibit at the Aalto2 museum hub, the Aaltoa yhdessä workshop, plus cake and coffee. Free entry.
14–15.6.2023, 5th international Alvar Aalto Researchers’ Network Seminar – Whose modernism?
Aalto2, Alvar Aallon katu 7, Jyväskylä.
The two-day, international Alvar Aalto researchers’ seminar focusses on origins, creative processes, and development trajectories in modern design. The English-language seminar is open to all. Entry fee. More details here.
26.8–3.9.2023, Alvar Aalto Week, Kotka
The seventh consecutive Alvar Aalto Week invites you to Kotka to view the local built environment and rich industrial heritage. This live urban event puts the spotlight on architecture, design and art, and on the phenomena underlying them.
Discover the Alvar Aalto Route’s architecture sites on the Visit Alvar Aalto online service at visit.alvaraalto.fi
Coordinator of the Alvar Aalto 125 jubilleum
Collaboration Manager Mari Forsberg
Tel. +358 50 325 1909
Communications Manager Mirkka Vidgrén
Tel. +358 40 168 5142
This year marks the 125th anniversary of the birth of Alvar Aalto (1898−1976). The architects and pioneers of modern design Alvar, Aino and Elissa Aalto created exceptionally rich and varied career for themselves in Finland and abroad. During the year, the Alvar Aalto Foundation – along with its partners in collaboration – will be putting the spotlight on the story of Alvar Aalto’s architect’s office (1923−1994) and on the ideas that influenced its work; ideas that are still relevant today.
Alvar Aalto in 1940´s. Photo Mäkinen © Alvar Aalto Foundation.
Aalto2 museum hub, conceptual drawing Arkkitehtitoimisto A-Konsultit Oy.