Elsa-Kaisa Mäkiniemi (22.11.1922–12.4.1994) graduated as an architect in Helsinki in 1949 and commenced work at Alvar Aalto’s architect’s office in that same year.
The Alvar Aalto Foundation has published a selection of architectural drawings and photographs illustrating the life’s work of Elissa Aalto (1922−1994) on the Finna search service. Elissa Aalto (née Elsa Mäkiniemi), Alvar Aalto’s second wife, worked in Aalto’s architect’s office in 1949−1994.
“The material now being published on Finna includes both built and unbuilt plans. The earliest are practice pieces that Elissa Aalto made as a student and the latest are from her time at Alvar Aalto & Co, Architects. Also viewable are previously unpublished personal snapshots from different decades, taken on ordinary visits to building sites and on trips abroad for work and leisure,” says Alvar Aalto Foundation Curator Anni Saastamoinen. The material published on Finna comprises 32 drawings and 15 photographs.
Last year, 2022, marked the centenary of Elissa Aalto’s birth. Her role at Aalto’s architect’s office was highly varied. She was supervising architect on numerous major building projects in Finland and abroad. Projects known to be Elissa Aalto’s independent designs include several detached houses, plus the SOS Children’s Village in Tapiola, Espoo (1964–65), and the private house Villa Hauta-aho (1982–83) in Seinäjoki. She ran the office in 1976−1994, following Alvar’s death, bringing several unfinished building projects to completion, and took charge of the repair and alteration of several buildings. Elissa Aalto also played a role in the setting up of the Alvar Aalto Foundation in 1968. She was behind the transfer of the Alvar Aalto’s office’s drawing, photograph and document collection to the ownership of the Alvar Aalto Foundation, thus keeping this rare undivided collection all in one place.
One goal of the Elissa Aalto centenary celebrations was to make the life’s work of this gifted, determined designer better known. During 2022, the Alvar Aalto Foundation catalogued and digitized a set of some 1900 drawings of Elissa Aalto’s designs. During the anniversary year, the Foundation also produced the Architect Elissa Aalto touring exhibition and published the first book about Elissa Aalto.
The Alvar Aalto Foundation’s drawing and photograph archives are unique both nationally and internationally. They span the extensive, diverse life’s work of the architect Alvar Aalto, and of his architect wives, Aino Aalto and Elissa Aalto. The original drawings by Alvar Aalto’s architect’s office, some 90,000 in all, form the nucleus of the Alvar Aalto Foundation’s collections. The Foundation’s photograph collection comprises about 50,000 architecture, design and exhibition photos related to Aalto’s personal history and life’s work, from the 1920s right up to the present day.
Elissa Aalto material on the Finna search service website in Finnish.
Finna is home to millions of items of cultural and scientific material from Finland. Hundreds of Finnish organizations, including archives, libraries and museums, contribute their unique content to Finna.fi.
Alvar Aalto Foundation
Chief Curator, Collections Timo Riekko
+358 400 354 268
Communications Manager Mirkka Vidgrén
+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 made exceptionally rich and varied careers 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.