Aino Aalto, Finnish Architect and Designer

“… arguably the single greatest omission of design history.” –Nina Stritzler-Levine

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Aino Marsio-Aalto

Marsio (b. 1894) was a Finnish architect and industrial designer, and the first wife of Alvar Aalto. In 1920, Marsio earned a degree in architecture at Helsingin Suomalainen Tyttökoulu (Helsinki University of Technology), and four years later took an assistant’s position with a young architect by the name of Alvar Aalto. In 1925, Marsio and Aalto married and would begin a collaboration that would influence the design world for many decades to come. In 1935, the Aaltos, along with Maire Gullichsen and Nils-Gustav Hahlin, co-founded Artek Oy, a Finnish design firm with a storefront in a busy shopping district in Helsinki. There, the Aalto’s introduced their Functionalist masterpieces to Finland. In 1936, Aino and Alvar collaborated on a vase that was inspired by the dress of indigenous Lapland women, which was coined the “Savoy Vase” after it was displayed at Restaurant Savoy, a tony restaurant in Helsinki designed by the Aalto’s firm. The Savoy vase design won a competition by Karhula/Iittala and was subsequently shown at the 1937 World’s Fair in Paris. That accolade, however, went to Alvar alone. And again, in 1939, Alvar won 1st prize for Aino’s Finnish pavilion design at the New York World’s Fair. But one of Aino’s must enduring contributions may be her simple, but iconic Functionalist pressed glassware for Iittala. Designed in 1932, it was inspired by the ripples that form on the surface when a stone is thrown into the water. While Aino Aalto’s contributions to the Artek legacy may never be fully know, her talents are unmistakable and the ripple effect created by her known classic designs has lasted for nearly a century. Aino Marsio-Aalto died in Helsinki in 1949.

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Far left: Floor lamp, 1930s. (Photo: Artnet)
Middle, row 1: Glassware for Iittala, 1932 (Photo: Bukowskis); Savoy Vase, 1936, for Iitalla; Lapland woman (Photo: public domain)
Middle, row 2: Table, 1932 (Photo: Artnet); 606 Side Table for Artek, 1932 (Photo: Jacksons); Floor lamp model called “floor-reflector” from 1937-38 with rare aluminum shade (Photo Jacksons).
Far right: Finnish Pavillion, 1936 New York World’s Fair (Photo: Ezra Stoller)

 

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