AALTO: ARCHITECTURE AND FURNITURE. New York: Museum of Modern Art, March 1938. First edition [3,000 copies]. Foreword by John McAndrew.

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AALTO: ARCHITECTURE AND FURNITURE

John McAndrew [foreword]

John McAndrew [foreword]: AALTO: ARCHITECTURE AND FURNITURE. New York: Museum of Modern Art, March 1938. First edition [3,000 copies]. Octavo. Embossed and decorated paper covered boards. Publishers glassine wrappers. 48 pp. 35 black and white plates and 4 text illustrations. Boards faintly worn, and endpapers lightly offsetted from the glassine wrappers. Surprisingly uncommon. A nearly fine copy in toned and chipped glassine wrappers. Rare thus.

7.75 x 10.25 hardcover book with 48 pages and 35 black and white plates and 4 text illustrations. Foreword by the curator of Architecture and Industrial Art John McAndrew. Architecture section by Simon Brienes and furniture section by A. Lawrence Kocher. The March 1938 publication date marks this volume as the first English-language monograph devoted to a Modern Scandinavian Designer.

Every MoMA publication from the 1930s was designed and produced to the highest standards of the day, with imaginative art direction for the product photography, to contemporary layouts and sensitive typography. AALTO: ARCHITECTURE AND FURNITURE presents a magnificent snapshot of the way the modern movement was blossoming in the final days before the start of World War II.

Modern architecture does not mean using immature new materials; the main thing is to work with materials towards a more human line. — Alvar Aalto

Finnish architect Alvar Aalto (1898 – 1976) was not only influenced by the landscape of his native country, but by the political struggle over Finland's place within European culture. After early neoclassical buildings, Alvar Aalto turned to ideas based on Functionalism, subsequently moving toward more organic structures, with brick and wood replacing plaster and steel. In addition to designing buildings, furniture, lamps, and glass objects with his wife Aino, he painted and was an avid traveler. A firm believer that buildings have a crucial role in shaping society, Aalto once said, “The duty of the architect is to give life a more sensitive structure.”

For historical reference, here is an article from the July 15, 1940 issue of TIME magazine titled Furniture by Assembly Line:

"In 1925 modern tubular furniture was born. Its birthplace was the Bauhaus, famed German school of architecture and design which Nazis later turned into a domestic science school for girls. It had a bony infancy. Fad-hungry interior decorators pounced on its chromium steel chairs and glass-topped tables. But many a buyer found it short on fun, however long on function. Trouble was—and still is—that metal furniture was cold in surface and line, clammy or hot according to the weather. 

“Meanwhile, in Finland, a brilliant young architect named Alvar Aalto and his architect wife, Aino, really got somewhere with modern furniture. Influenced by the Bauhaus and Le Corbusier (real name: Charles-Edouard Jeanneret), but experimenting in plywood instead of steel, they smoothed out geometric kinks, turned out chairs which combined the functional with good sense and charm. The Aaltos were the first to make chairs with pliant one-piece backs and resilient seats. They pioneered also in welding together layers of plywood with synthetic cement, cold-pressing them for six weeks into posture-pleasing shapes.

“Exhibited on the Continent, in London, at Manhattan's Museum of Modern Art (in 1938), their light, satiny furniture brought the Aaltos international renown, put them in the front rank of modern furniture designers. (Also well acknowledged by then was stocky, bush-browed Alvar Aalto's high rank among living architects.)

“Last week Alvar and Aino Aalto opened their own furniture store (Artek-Pascoe, Inc.) in Manhattan. The Aaltos' plywood sandwiches of maple and birch are shaped in Wisconsin, shipped East for assembly. Colors of the finished pieces of furniture—many of them Aalto-patented—ranged from natural finish through cellulosed red and blue to black. On display also went Aalto-designed screens and glassware.

“The excellence of the Aalto furniture may help to discourage manufacture of some furniture that now passes for modern. The Aalto purpose is to use U. S. mass production to get their designs into ordinary U. S. homes. Though their simple, substantial furniture is well fitted for mass production, the Aalto assembly line has not yet cut prices to the ordinary buyer's range. In full operation, it will retail an armchair now priced at $29.50 for $19, a $47 chest of drawers for $24, a $15 side table for $9. The Aaltos have already attained space-saving by designing stools that nest into each other, side chairs and even armchairs that can be stacked 20 high to save space."

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