Alvar Aalto (1898-1976) is still today the best know Finnish architect; all the Finns know his name, many of us have some of his designs at home (most popular one is the Aalto vase) and his name is familiar also abroad to all who are interested in architecture and design. In Helsinki there are 12 buildings designed by him. The best way to get to know the man and his work is by visiting two of his most intimate designs; his home and his studio.
Studio Aalto 1954-55, 1962-63
Tiilimäki 20, 00330 Helsinki
I recently visited Alvar Aalto’s studio for the first time, and I was surprised by the intimacy of the place. Both his studio and his home have very closed facades and they don’t stand out at all when approaching them from the street. The wow factor is hidden inside. Alvar Aalto was known as the master of light, he used daylighting as a primary design consideration in most of his buildings, which suites well for our climate where the winters are dark. The entrance of his studio is in the ground floor, where the windows are small. But the natural light illuminates the stairs that lead you up to the first floor where the studios are. There is a big space with wide windows where his employees used to work (and where still today work a part the personnel of the Alvar Aalto museum), and next to it, is the room that the master designed for himself that has high ceilings and is bathing in the light coming from the green inner yard that is hidden inside the building. Definitely an inspiring place to let your creativity flow.
Aalto house 1935-36
Alvar Aalto designed his home in 1930’s when he wasn’t so well know yet. In fact his first studio in Helsinki was in the right wing of the same building, and the one in Tiilimäki was designed almost 20 years later when all his employees couldn’t fit in the old one anymore. In his home he has managed to combine and at the same time separate cleverly the private part and the public one. There are many interesting details – secret entrances, stairs above the fire place, unique showpieces, etc. – that make you want to wonder around for hours, but the guided tours last always an hour. Thanks to the guide you’ll find out where the dining room chairs come from (they stand out and tell something really personal about the owners of the place). Also in Aalto House the best part is hidden inside – they have the most charming inner yard with beautiful views and a terrace where to drink your morning coffee. I would certainly love to live in this home!