An exhibition at the MAXXI in Rome talks about Aino, Alvar and Eissa Aalto

23 April 2024

MAXXI AALTO Pasqualini Fucilla MUSA

Architecture, furnishings, and approach to design.

“AALTO – Aino Alvar Elissa The human dimension of the project” is the exhibition that MAXXI dedicates to the revolutionary work of the Aalto studio.

MAXXI AALTO Pasqualini Fucilla MUSA

Until May 26, the MAXXI museum in Rome hosts the exhibition “AALTO – Aino Alvar Elissa The human dimension of the project” curated by Space Caviar. A broad and in-depth review of the design and industrial production of Alvar Aalto and his two life partners, Aino and Elissa, without whom his work would not have been the same.

A production that ranges from architecture to design, from textiles to accessories, and is always permeated by a holistic vision that puts the individual and his well-being at the centre. «True architecture exists only when it places the human being at the center» is the motto of the Aalto studio and this exhibition helps to understand its meaning.

At the root of iconic furnishings such as the 901 Tea Trolley, the Angel Wing lamp, the vases for IIttala – just to name a few – there is always, behind them, a broader project, a complex and very concrete idea.

MAXXI AALTO Pasqualini Fucilla MUSA

It is no coincidence that the Aaltos were involved in architectural projects of great cultural and social importance which were accompanied by the foundation of the Artek company to make their impact in these two areas of modern living even more significant.

The studio was founded in Finland in 1923 by Aino Marsio and her husband Alvar Aalto: it was a moment of transition for the country which was building its identity as a free country, independent from Russia following the Bolshevik revolution. The social and architectural destiny is yet to be written and the Aalto couple have clear ideas: buildings, spaces and furnishings must be functional and on a human scale.

The exhibition recounts fifty years of design through eleven significant projects: buildings but also furnishings, shapes, materials. One of them is the one for the Paimio Sanatorium (1929 – 1933) in which architecture is understood as a useful tool to contribute to the healing of the patient: this project will bring the studio to celebrity.

MAXXI AALTO Pasqualini Fucilla MUSA

Also significant is the project for the MIT dormitories in Cambridge, Massachusetts – USA (1947 – 1949), capable of accommodating 353 students in 43 rooms of different shapes as well as the Church and parish center of Riola di Vergato, in Italy (1966 – 1980) created posthumously but interesting and rare intervention by a Scandinavian designer in the country. The 1:1 scale reconstruction of Villa Mairea, designed in 1937 in Normakku, Finland, constitutes, however, a precious example of the Aaltos’ design approach in the field of private construction. The Experimental House in Muuratsalo is the protagonist of the immersive video game Hide and Seek in Architecture, created by the Space Caviar studio in collaboration with Meta.

The exhibition also dedicates ample space to the incredible experience of Artek, the company founded in 1935 by Alvar and Aino Aalto together with the art-loving patron Maire Gullichsen and the art historian and critic Nils-Gustav Hahl. The basic idea was to produce and market the furnishings that the Aalto studio designed for the various architectural projects, but the ambition was much higher. “Promoting a modern culture and way of life through exhibitions and other forms of communication” was in fact what today would be defined as the company mission and therefore the Aalto couple had the foresight to understand design as a form of communication.

MAXXI AALTO Pasqualini Fucilla MUSA

An avant-garde project whose name immediately declares the intent to combine artistic approach and technology and is fully expressed through woodworking: Finland was, as today, rich in forests and wood in any case seemed to be the most beautiful and pleasant to the touch as well as perfectly consistent with a modern approach to furniture design.

The intuition is a winning one, since even today the furnishings designed almost a century ago by the Aalto studio are still extraordinarily current.

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