The studio was completed for use by Alvar Aalto’s architect’s office in 1955. The white rendered brick building is in Munkkiniemi in Helsinki, within walking distance of Aalto’s home.
The 1950s were a decade of public building in Finland. A great many architectural competitions were organized and Aalto won a number of them. The office needed more space. “You can’t create architecture in an office environment,” is how Aalto described working in an architect’s office. He designed a free-form studio wing for the building, and a drawing room using natural light. The building curves around a stepped, amphitheatre-style courtyard sheltered from the wind. The courtyard amphitheatre serves as an auditorium, and the opposite white concrete wall as a projection screen, if necessary.
After Alvar Aalto's death in 1976, design work continued in the building under Elissa Aalto's (Alvar Aalto's second wife) leadership. Uncompleted projects were finished off and renovations planned for Aalto's buildings. Alvar Aalto Architects Ltd finally ceased operations in 1994. Nowadays, the studio building is open to the public and houses the office of the Alvar Aalto Museum.
Many of Aalto’s best-known works were designed here at the Studio with over 20 persons working in the office. Vezio Nava, one of the architects who used to work at the Studio Aalto, describes the studio life with the following words: "Usually he [Aalto] walked between the tables, stopping here and there, or invited some colleague to go and sit with him in the atelier to ponder some work." Aalto was dressed in a classic way, and was always with a pocket full of at least four or five 6B pencils. Nava tells that Aalto "regularly forgot the pencils on our tables during his rounds, and the secretary then went to pick them up to return to him."
There are public guided tours of the Studio throughout the year. Alvar Aalto's experimental light fittings and pieces of furniture are on permanent display. The studio serves as a perfect venue for exhibitions and events. Outside, walk around the building and glimpse the courtyard – you may even sit down and sketch in the garden. Check AALTOsites app for other Aalto-designed buildings in Helsinki region!