Alvar Aalto Savoy Vase

Alvar Aalto Savoy Vase

The super modern Savoy line was designed by Alvar Aalto in 1937 for Iittala, Finland. A stylish accent on your table, even when it is not being used! The renowned "Aalto" or "Savoy" line represents the best of aesthetic sophistication in Finnish design. Architect Alvar Aalto's original, unconventional design continues to win awards over 50 years after its debut. Entirely plain but shaped with free organic curves to provide decorative interest, this vase was one of a series by Alvar Aalto that introduced a new abstract vocabulary into glass design, a development that art critics have attributed both to the designer's fondness for natural forms and to the influence of such surrealist artists as Jean Arp. Sometimes known as the Savoy vase from its use in the Savoy restaurant in Helsinki, which Aalto built in 1937, this piece and others in the series took First Prize in a competition sponsored by the Finnish manufacturer Karhula-Iittala in 1936. The competition aimed to find new tableware and art-glass designs for the International Exhibition in Paris in 1937, where these pieces were first exhibited.

About Alvar Aalto:

Alvar Aalto (1898-1976) was born in Kuortane, Finland. He studied architecture at the Technical University of Helsinki from 1916 to 1921 when he went to work as an exhibition designer, art critic and contributor to the Finnish journal Käsiteollisuus. He turned, professionally, to architecture in 1923 and, starting around 1924, designed several cafés and student centers for his school. He also created bedroom furniture sets for his classmates, mostly in the "Light Classical" style. He became a member of the Congrès Internationaux D'Architecture Moderne in 1928.

As an architect and designer he was one of the early ambassadors of Finnish design to the rest of the world, designing the Finnish pavilion at the Paris World Exposition in 1937 and the New York World's Fair in 1939. His joint design, with Erik Bryggman, for the 1929 Turku Fair was also instrumental in ushering in an era of functionalism in Finland. Their open plan, which utilized a modular system of prefabricated wood elements, embraced the functionalist ideal of a close connection to the landscape and extensive use of natural, abundant materials. His later furniture designs further support the basic tenets of functionalism-- that industrially mass-produced, inexpensive, practical, well-made, beautiful objects would spread social equality and a culture the masses could participate in and enjoy.

In 1929 he and Otto Korhonen started an experimental plywood workshop in Turku where he developed the methods which he would later apply towards his most important innovation in furniture design which was the "bent knee." In this process, for which he obtained a patent throughout most of the world, a piece of solid birch wood, the most abundant natural resource in Finland, is manipulated so that it can be bent at any desired angle. This technique enabled him to create what he felt was "the world's first soft wooden chair."

In 1935, Aalto, his wife Aino Marsio-Aalto with whom he worked closely, and Harry and Marie Gullichsen founded a furniture design company called Artek. Artek's chief goal was to advertise and sell products designed by Aalto, but their gallery also supported and promoted modern art and the work of designers influenced by Aalto. Another major company importing and selling Aalto's furniture around the word was Finmar, started by P. Morton Shand in England.

Between 1954 and 1957 an exhibition entitled, "Design in Scandinavia" toured America and cemented the reputation that designers from the Scandinavian countries had been building for themselves as leaders in international design. The Finnish designers garnered praise for their work--primarily in wood and glass-- and Aalto's art glass, particularly his vases, were heavily featured in the show. In 1957 Aalto was awarded a gold medal by the Royal Institute of British Architects.

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