Alvar Aalto (Finnish, 18981976)
Laminated birch; 36 x 24 in. (61 x 91.4 cm)
Purchase, Friends of Twentieth Century Decorative Arts Gifts, by exchange, 2000 (2000.375)
This chair, designed for Aalto's Paimio Sanatorium of 192932, demonstrates the radical possibilities of bentwood in its graceful, scrolling form, devoid of right angles and sharp geometry. In designing this chair for use in the sanatorium, Aalto sought to create a form that would be both mentally and physically soothing to patients, and aid in their recuperation. Like his European peers, the Finnish Aalto was deeply interested in exploring new manufacturing techniques and uses of materials in his pursuit of modern furniture design, favoring light, dematerialized forms with dramatic cantilevers. However, whereas many of his colleagues explored the formal potential of tubular steel, Aalto preferred the warmth and tactility of wood. In this design, he experimented with plywood and molded birch from his native Finland. The seat and back are fashioned from the same piece of molded wood, which terminates in volutes at either end, functioning as both structure and decorative element.