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Born 1898 AD, the career of the Finn Alvar Aalto spanned the decades of the 1920s through the 1970s, ranging from Nordic Classical to Humanistic Functionalism to Scandinavian Modernism. An architect, painter, designer and sculptor, it was Aalto’s focus on the ideal of Gesamtkunstwerk that led to him creating not just the building but the interior surfaces, furnishings, and even the glasswork that would fill it. During his productive years, he would design hundreds of structures, ranging from homes to town halls, retirement communities and hospitals, churches and vicarages, theaters and monuments, libraries and shops and cafes, saunas and spas, and even tombs – in fact, just about every type of building found in modern civilization.
Born to a Finnish-speaking father and Swedish-speaking mother, Aalto enrolled at the Helsinki University to study architecture in 1916. But his studies were interrupted (he would eventually get his degree in 1921) by the Russian Revolution and resulting Finnish Civil War, in which he took up arms for Finnish independence. In 1922, despite being drafted into military service – he rose to be a reserve second lieutenant – Aalto opened his architectural firm and designed his first constructs. In 1925, he married Aino Marsio (1894-1949), another architect, and their collaboration revolutionized European design. The marriage didn't last, and in 1952 Alvar would remarry, yet another architect, one Elissa Makiniemi (1922-1994); together they continued to push the boundaries of acceptable architecture until his death in 1976.