Alvar Aalto: Organic Urbanism

Project: Research

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Alvar Aalto is Finland’s world-renowned architect, a notable pioneer of the Modern Movement, and a leading exponent of an organic approach to architecture. His long-celebrated work is currently of rising interest, considering its still unsurpassed capacity to offer high degrees of well-being. Yet, his work has been interpreted almost exclusively as a contribution to the field of architecture and furniture design. Such interpretation leads to the underestimation of the fundamental role played by urbanism in his proposition. What are the characteristics of Aalto’s conception of urbanism? Can the revelation of this conception contribute to a better understanding and conservation of his work? What lessons can we learn from Aalto’s approach to urbanism? This research aims to reestablish the relevance of Aalto’s work in the field of urbanism by producing new evidence thereof, originating from an organic proposition based on the “pavilion” as a structural and functional unit. This project originates from the research by design carried out for the restoration of the Finnish Pavilion at the Venice Biennale, and the observation of undisclosed original documents and drawings recently discovered in the private archive of one of Aalto’s former collaborators. This research will primarily rely on the analysis of the recently found materials, and others made available by the Alvar Aalto Foundation. This mixed methods research combines historical-contextual, document, morphological, and typological analyses. Using the masterplans, projects, writings, and speeches that Aalto produced from the mid-1930s to the mid-1950s, this research aims to provide evidence on how his conception of organic urbanism is (1) groundbreaking and not adequately valued; (2) made possible by a technical innovation; (3) formed as a fractal; (4) based on the archetypical typology of the pavilion as the fundamental unit of structure and function; and (5) the framework that can offer a new key for the analysis of his work.  The significance of this research does not only lie in the rehabilitation of Alvar Aalto as an urbanist, nor solely in the implications for the conservation of his work. The findings will redound to the benefit of large portions of the urban population, providing an alternative to our current mode of haphazard suburban development that is producing alienating living and working conditions. 


Project number9043087
Grant typeGRF
Effective start/end date1/01/21 → …