First ever book published about architect Elissa Aalto

The Elissa Aalto centenary programme culminates this month in the release of a new book about her life and work, a touring exhibition of Aalto towns, and celebrations commemorating the 100th anniversary of the architect’s birth on 22 November 2022. 

Elissa Aalto’s (1922–1994) intriguing life journey took her from her childhood home of Kemi to the world’s metropolitan hubs, first as an employee at Alvar Aalto’s Helsinki-based office and later as the famed architect’s second wife. Architect Elissa Aalto is a new book shedding light on her lesser-known personal history and creative accomplishments. Published by the Aalto Alvar Foundation and edited by Chief Curator Mia Hipeli, the book features articles by Mia Hipeli, Timo RiekkoJonas MalmbergAila SvenskbergTommi Lindh and Jussi Rautsi.

Elissa Aalto’s beaming, sunny disposition belied her diligent, determined mindset as an architect. Drawing on anecdotes shared by contemporaries and rare archive material, the book paints a rich, multidimensional portrait of an architect whose achievements have often been overshadowed by those of Aalto’s first wife, the acclaimed architect Aino Aalto(1894–1949). Mia Hipeli chronicles Elissa’s life story and illustrates her personality through surviving correspondence and anecdotes. Elissa Aalto, originally Elsa Mäkiniemi, was married to architect Alvar Aalto (1898–1976) from 1952 to 1976. She became a partner in his practice in 1958 and took over running the office after Aalto’s death. She continued seeing his unfinished architectural projects through to completion until her own death in 1994.

The book draws on personal correspondence, drawings, photographs, documents, and other rare source material from the Alvar Aalto Foundation’s archives. After combing the archives, Chief Curator Timo Riekko has assembled a selection of drawings, sketches, photographs and other samples of Elissa’s work that have rarely been seen by the wider public. In his article, Senior Architect Jonas Malmberg discusses the problem of authorship and the academic challenges of finding relevant source material documenting Elissa Aalto’s specific contribution to co-designed projects, many of which are well-known buildings. Journalist Aila Svenskberg in turn reflects on Elissa Aalto’s relationship with design and interior architecture through a close study of Artek’s 1950s printed fabrics and the authentic interiors of Villa Hauta-aho (1982), a private home that has survived intact in its original form to this day.

The book also features a conversation between Tommi Lindh, CEO of the Alvar Aalto Foundation, and Spatial Planning Counsellor Jussi Rautsi, who shed light on Elissa Aalto’s important role in preserving and carrying on Aalto’s legacy. Having worked under Elissa Aalto’s directorship at Alvar Aalto & Co, Rautsi shares rich, vivid memories of the times when the office completed its last major projects such as the Riola Church and Parish Centre in Italy (1966-80), Essen Opera House in Germany (1959, 1983–88), the renovation of Paimio Sanatorium, and the extensive repairs of Finlandia Hall and Viipuri Library.

The book is available for sale at the Alvar Aalto Shop, Alvar Aalto Foundation museums, online at shop.alvaraalto.fi, and through various retailers.

 

 

 

Architect Elissa Aalto
Ed. Mia Hipeli
Authors: Mia Hipeli, Timo Riekko, Jonas Malmberg, Aila Svenskberg, Tommi Lindh and Jussi Rautsi
128 pages, 4-colour, bound, Finnish–English
Translations: Gekko Design

Graphic design: Tiina Ekosaari
Publisher: Alvar Aalto Foundation
ISBN 978-952-5498-77-6
Price €30.00

 

 

Alvar-ja-Elissa-Aalto-Maison-Carrén-olohuoneessa-rakennustöiden-loppuvaiheessa-1959.
Alvar-and-Elissa-Aalto-in-Maison-Carré-1959. Photo © Alvar Aalto Foundation.

 

More from Alvar Aalto

16th Alvar Aalto Symposium 2024 focuses on the era of extremes

What is the role of architecture and design amidst environmental crises, catastrophes and political upheaval? …

130 years since the birth of Aino Aalto

January 25, 2024, marks the 130th anniversary of the birth of architect Aino Aalto. In …

Architecture and Design Days 1–4/2 2024 “In a Good Space”

The Finnish Architecture and Design Days 2024, take place at the start of February, this …

The first week of February is a celebration of Finnish architecture and design

On the 3rd of February, Finnish flags are hoisted in celebration of Alvar and Aino Aalto …

Finland celebrates Architecture and Design Days 2024

Finland celebrates Architecture and Design Days on 1–4.2.2024. This year’s theme highlights the importance of architecture …

Major showing of the Aaltos’ work in Italy – The Human Dimension of Design

Alvar Aalto in the Muuratsalo Experimental House (1952–54). Photo Heikki Havas Photo © Alvar Aalto …

Iittala celebrates Alvar Aalto’s 125th birthday with a limited edition

Aalto glass vase like never seen before. Iittala celebrates Alvar Aalto’s 125th birthday with a …

Alvar Aalto Foundation partners with Habitare Pro

Habitare Pro, which accompanies Habitare on 13–15.9.2023, consists of an exhibition in Habitare’s Ahead area, an international …

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the completion of the architect Alvar Aalto’s eponymous museum

The Alvar Aalto Museum building – made “con amore” This year marks the 50th anniversary …

Discover Stool 60 Loimu: Limited by Nature design by Alvar Aalto – Artek

Stool 60 Loimu (flame, in English) is produced from an exceptionally rare birch variant distinguished …

The Paimio Sanatorium Anniversary Collection design by Alvar Aalto – Artek

Artek launches celebratory collection to commemorate 90 years since the Paimio Sanatorium’s opening.     …

Architect Elissa Aalto exhibition opens in Lahti during August Architecture Week

An exhibition about the life’s work of architect Elissa Aalto will open at Galleria Nuovo, …

Filaments of Image and Space Exhibition @ Paimio Sanatorium

Filaments of Image and Space 16.6.–30.9.2023 The exhibition is open in June-August, Tuesday-Sunday from 10 …

The anniversary edition of Armchair 41 by Alvar Aalto is made from beautifully oiled birch wood – Artek

Artek’s Armchair 41, also known as the Paimio chair, is one of the most beautiful …

WHOSE MODERNISM? 40 international perspectives on modernism @ Alvar Aalto Museum

Have you already applied for your free virtual ticket? The 5. Alvar Aalto Researchers’ Network …

Exhibition 11 May – 15 September 2023 by Artek 2nd Cycle to Celebrate 90 Years of Stool 60

Rare pieces from the 1930s until today are on view at Artek 2nd Cycle in …

Aalto2 opens doors to world heritage sites

“Throughout history, people have left their mark on the landscape, the built environment, artefacts, and …

The new Aalto2 Museum Centre to fulfil Alvar Aalto’s wish

“Nothing that is old can be reborn. But nor will it disappear entirely. And that …

Artek’s Stool 60 celebrates its 90th anniversary in 2023 — an extraordinary milestone for a humble wooden stool

90 Years of Stool 60 Born of modernist ideals and Finnish innovation, its great legacy …

The 125th anniversary of Alvar Aalto’s birth on February 3

Alvar Aalto in 1940s. Photo: Eino Mäkinen, Alvar Aalto Foundation. This year marks the 125th …