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The relevance of Alvar Aalto: understanding the past as a promise for a better future

I will review the unparalleled breadth of Aalto’s concern at all scales of the architectural enterprise: from the understanding of the particularities of site and his respect for the natural world; the close attention to function, at both a physical and psychological level; the experiments with appropriate means – the technology of his age, but conditioned by and adapted for human use; his formal fluency, employing an inclusive architectural language that allows for many influences to be absorbed, and yet the whole to cohere; and his apparent philosophical position – a kind of dualism, I will suggest – that permits the rigours of logic and science, and yet accords an appropriate role to subjective and poetic invention and experience.  This exemplary breadth confirms Aalto as an architect of continuing contemporary relevance, and ensures a fruitful ground for research into the many aspects of his work, and their theoretical underpinning.

Nicholas Ray