The standardized object must not be a finished product, on the contrary it must be produced in such a way that man, with his individual values, is able to complete it.
This is what Alvar Aalto, one of the most creative minds of the 20th century, stated in 1935. And this is the common thread of the exhibition “AALTO – Aino Alvar Elissa. The Human Dimension of Design“, recently inaugurated at the MAXXI National Museum of 21st Century Arts in Rome, which presents eleven projects created by the Aalto studio over the course of its entire professional activity, in an experimental layout that offers the visitor different interpretations for understanding the studio’s work.
In the Aaltos’ vision, architecture, art and design are inseparable parts of a unicum.
Buildings they designed have become icons, influencing architects all over the world, and thanks as well to the Studio’s attention to low-cost mass production, the studio’s design objects are now part of many people’s homes, and are still in production today. They were ahead of their time. Commonly used lines in many chairs and armchairs, which today seem to have an obvious design, were actually designed seventy years ago.
Considered the most important Finnish architect of the 20th century, Alvar Aalto was also a world-famous designer and urban planner, considered among the masters of the Modern Movement. A generation younger than Le Corbusier and Mies van der Rohe, he is the undisputed leader of European organic architecture.
The compelling MAXXI exhibition, curated by Space Caviar, presents a selection of eleven projects spanning five decades, underlining Studio Aalto’s unwavering commitment to placing human experience at the center of architectural and design considerations. This practice is a common thread that unites projects that are very different in terms of scale – from workers’ clubs to town halls, from single-family homes to entire residential complexes. In every one of these projects, the Aaltos express a singular conception of the Modern Movement as a harmonized design practice with a deep commitment to the well-being of the individual and a symbiotic relationship with the natural world.
Standing out among some of the most iconic contributions of Alvar Aalto’s studio that are exhibited in the KME Gallery of the Roman museum is the Experimental House on the island of Muuratsalo in Finland, a summer residence conceived with different types of bricks and ceramics. There will also be space for the People’s House of Jyväskylä, one of the team’s most well-known works, for the very famous Paimio Sanatorium, which brought the studio international fame, and for the iconic Villa Mairea in Noormarkku, which is among the symbolic works of architecture of the 20th century. Many chairs and armchairs that today have designs we take for granted as current were actually designed seventy years ago, with ultra-modern lines. The Aalto’s way of conceiving architecture and design is particular, based on the utmost attention to people.
Founded in Finland in 1923, Studio Aalto was born in a period of rapid change. Aino, Alvar’s first wife and also an architect, was fundamental in the formation of the studio’s design philosophy in its early years, participating in the creation of important projects such as the Paimio Sanatorium, which propose a human-centered approach to design. In 1952, following Aino’s premature death in 1949, Alvar married Elissa. This began a new and fertile period of creative collaboration within the studio, characterized by levels of international openness unprecedented in the history of Finnish architecture. MAXXI’s account of Aalto’s design work is very beautiful, showing a way of thinking in which buildings and design live in perfect harmony with nature and the man who inhabits them.
“True architecture exists only when it places the human being at the center”: the new exhibition set up in the spaces of the MAXXI National Museum of 21st Century Arts, open to visitors until May 26, also draws inspiration from this revolutionary anthropocentric reflection on design.
Translation by Paul Rosenberg
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