Exploring Alvar Aalto's world in Helsinki

Susan and Lieske were invited by Artek to the exclusive ‘Artek inspiration trip Finland’. Here are some fragments of the stories they came back with:

Paimio Sanatorium

No matter which location we visited, we were immediately struck by the remarkable, functional design that seemed to be infused with thought and purpose. What stood out was the Paimio Sanatorium, designed by Aalto. It has bright yellow floors to uplift patients during dark days and is a great example of Aalto's holistic approach to architecture, where even the colour schemes were chosen with the users' well-being in mind. His focus was not just on convenience but on improving the quality of life, making breathing easier through thoughtful design for the Paimio Chair and creating door handles to enhance usability for those with limited strength, like tuberculosis patients in the sanatorium.

Life & work

During the tour of his home and studio, stories were shared about Aalto's life, including how much he collaborated with his first and second wife, both architects. His second wife mainly influenced his later works. 

It was fascinating to see how his personal and professional lives were intertwined and how his lifestyle influenced his designs. The proximity of Aalto's home and studio, just a ten-minute walk apart, highlighted the tranquil and intimate life he led.

The difference between Aalto Home and Aalto Studio was subtle. Aalto Home was personal and intimate, reflecting Aalto's private life, yet it also served as a large workspace. Aalto Studio was more professional, designed for staff and work, yet it retained a homely feel. Our guide shared that Aalto Studio was one of Aalto’s favourite places, a testament to its inspiring environment.

The personal touch at Aalto Home and Studio contrasted with the professional atmosphere of A-Factory. Sadly, no photos were allowed, but the professionalism and attention to detail were evident. 

Global influence

The trip was a great reminder of the extent of Aalto's impact on global design, of how deeply his work influenced modern design principles. Every element of the spaces we visited was meticulously considered, bringing the visionary ideas of Alvar Aalto to life. The influence of his designs also extended throughout Helsinki, from coffee shops to various architectural elements across the city.

Visiting Helsinki?

For anyone planning to visit Helsinki, we highly recommend immersing oneself in Aalto's world, visiting some, if not all, of the locations mentioned and adding to the mix the flagship store. The iconic stools and furniture you see everywhere in Helsinki are a testament to Aalto's enduring legacy, much like the ever-present SUSAN BIJL bags we see in Rotterdam.

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