Google Honors Famed Finnish Architect Alvar Aalto

The architect's designs in everything from buildings to furniture are now displayed online through a Google and Alvar Aalto Foundation partnership.

Google honor Finnish artist

The Finnish architect Alvar Aalto died in May 1976 at age 78, but the spectacular designs he left behind in architecture, furniture, glassware and even textiles remain, inspiring new generations of designers and showcasing clever and innovative products.

Now more people around the world will be able to see Aalto's work virtually through a partnership between Google, the Google Cultural Institute and the Alvar Aalto Foundation in Finland, which is bringing many examples of Aalto's work online in several special exhibits.

The collaborative exhibits were announced by William Echikson, head of community relations for Google in Europe, in an Aug. 25 post on the Google Europe Blog.

"Alvar Aalto changed the way we see the world," wrote Echikson. "Finland's famed architect and designer not only built path-breaking buildings during his long, fruitful life, he also designed some of the 20th century's most innovative furniture, textiles and glassware. Today, we're proud to announce a partnership with the Alvar Aalto Foundation to bring much of this genius's important work online--allowing anyone, anywhere to virtually visit many of his most important buildings and learn about his design breakthroughs."

For Google, the project has special meaning, wrote Echikson. "We have built one of our two largest data centers in Finland--and the architect of our data center building was none other than Aalto," he wrote. "The Finnish master originally designed our data center in Hamina as a paper mill. The mill closed in 2007. We took over the empty building, transformed and expanded it, investing so far almost a billion euros and creating hundreds of jobs in the region, while attempting to keep intact as much as possible of the Aalto heritage."

Images of the interior and exterior of the renovated building have been published on Google Street View in a special Aalto collection, wrote Echikson. "Aalto designed many other buildings in the area around our data center--including the world-famed Sunila worker housing in Kotka. We long have shown the outsides of these buildings on Street View. We're now adding the interiors."

For fans of Aalto's work, many of his most famous buildings are located hundreds of miles apart, which makes them difficult to visit in one trip, wrote Echikson. That's where the exhibit fills in the blanks by capturing images of those far apart buildings and bringing them into one collection, he added. "We toured the entire country to photograph his most important masterpieces. We went to his hometown Jyvaskyla in central Finland and photographed the Alvar Aalto Museum and Säynätsalo Town Hall."

Also included are images in the Finnish capital of Helsinki of Aalto's studio and two important cultural buildings, Finlandia Hall and the House of Culture, wrote Echikson. "At the Restaurant Savoy, Aalto brought Finnish nature into the center of Helsinki, designing still-in-production door knobs, clean-lined lighting fixtures, club chairs, and the famed Savoy vase, mirroring the outlines of a Finnish lake."

Two of the new online exhibitions were put together through cooperation between Finland's Aalto Foundation and the Google Cultural Institute platform. "The first focuses on Aalto's famed three-legged stool 60," wrote Echikson. "This much-imitated model relied on one of Aalto's most important innovations--a new process for bending wood that he applied to create organic shapes. The stool was designed in 1933 and was first used in two major early works of Aalto: Paimio Sanatorium and Vyborg Library before becoming an iconic piece of modernist furniture for people to furnish their homes with."