New show sheds light on Alvar Aalto

Over 100 light fittings designed by the Finnish architect go on show in Belgium beside a pontoon bridge
Alvar Aalto: Lightings, at Le Grand Hornu
Alvar Aalto: Lightings, at Le Grand Hornu

In his conclusion to our new book on the brilliant modern architect Finnish architect Alvar Aalto, our author Robert McCarter characterises Aalto's chief abilities: an unparalleled ability to bring together the cultural and the natural, a humanizing transformation of Modern architecture; an intimate engagement of everyday experience in the making of places; and an "unmatched mastery of light."

Such mastery informed the way he worked with both the natural daylight of course, but also man-made illumination too. Indeed, Aalto took a holistic approach to building design, drafting not only the walls and windows, but also coming up with the fixtures and furniture, including many beautiful lamps and light fittings.


Alvar Aalto: Lightings, at Le Grand Hornu
Alvar Aalto: Lightings, at Le Grand Hornu

Curators at the Grand-Hornu complex in Boussu, Belgium have gathered together just over 100 of Aalto's lamp designs - many lent from private collections - for Alvar Aalto: Lightings, which opened earlier this week and runs until 4 May.

The show not only demonstrates how fecund and ergonomic Aalto's approach to design was, but also how effective each piece is in lighting an interior.

Pendant lamp A330, 1954 by Alvar Aalto
Pendant lamp A330, 1954 by Alvar Aalto

An initial installation at the Grand-Hornu arranges the lamps over an expanse of water. Visitors cross this on a pontoon, and so are able to appreciate each lamp's function. The subsequent part of the exhibition, meanwhile, is packed with archival documents, photos and drawings, demonstrating how these light designs fitted into Aalto's practice. It's a beautiful body of work, and one that's still available today, via the company Aalto founded, Artek.

For more, go here. And for greater insight into this architect's life and work, pre-order our great new book, here.

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