Alvar Aalto Studio in Helsinki

The studio was completed for use by Alvar Aalto’s architect’s office in 1955. The white rendered brick building is in Munkkiniemi in Helsinki, within walking distance of Aalto’s home.

The 1950s were a decade of public building in Finland. A great many architectural competitions were organized and Aalto won a number of them. The office needed more space. “You can’t create architecture in an office environment,” is how Aalto described working in an architect’s office. He designed a free-form studio wing for the building, and a drawing room using natural light. The building curves around a stepped, amphitheatre-style courtyard sheltered from the wind. The courtyard amphitheatre serves as an auditorium, and the opposite white concrete wall as a projection screen, if necessary.

After Alvar Aalto's death in 1976, design work continued in the building under Elissa Aalto's (Alvar Aalto's second wife) leadership. Uncompleted projects were finished off and renovations planned for Aalto's buildings. Alvar Aalto Architects Ltd finally ceased operations in 1994. Nowadays, the studio building is open to the public and houses the office of the Alvar Aalto Museum

Many of Aalto’s best-known works were designed here at the Studio with over 20 persons working in the office. Vezio Nava, one of the architects who used to work at the Studio Aalto, describes the studio life with the following words: "Usually he [Aalto] walked between the tables, stopping here and there, or invited some colleague to go and sit with him in the atelier to ponder some work." Aalto was dressed in a classic way, and was always with a pocket full of at least four or five 6B pencils. Nava tells that Aalto "regularly forgot the pencils on our tables during his rounds, and the secretary then went to pick them up to return to him."

There are public guided tours of the Studio throughout the year. Alvar Aalto's experimental light fittings and pieces of furniture are on permanent display. The studio serves as a perfect venue for exhibitions and events. Outside, walk around the building and glimpse the courtyard – you may even sit down and sketch in the garden. Check AALTOsites app for other Aalto-designed buildings in Helsinki region!

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Scottie Admire: Massimo Vitali

Mr. Massimo Vitali (born in Como, Italy in 1944) is an Italian photographer best known for his large-scale colour images of beaches and mass leisure events.

Vitali studied photography at the London College of Printing. He worked as a photojournalist in the 1970s, but at the beginning of the 80s a growing mistrust in the belief that photography had the capacity to reproduce the subtleties of reality led to a change in his career path. He began working as a movie camera operator, before beginning a fine-art practice in 1995.

This change in direction is clear in Vitali’s works. Since the mid 1990’s, he has chronicled contemporary life and the inherent conflict between humans and their interactions with their environment. His greatest, or at least most well known works, commenced in 1995 with his beach series. His panoramic views of large masses of people are modern classics, and his scenes have expanded to pools, ski resorts, piazzas, cities and other leisure sites around the world. 

His series of Italian beach panoramas began in the light of drastic political changes in Italy. Vitali started to observe his fellow countrymen very carefully. In Whitney Davis’ view, he depicted a “sanitized, complacent view of Italian normalities”, at the same time revealing “the inner conditions and disturbances of normality: its cosmetic fakery, sexual innuendo, commodified leisure, deluded sense of affluence, and rigid conformism”. 

Beauty is in the eyes of the beholder

Vitali’s works are revered for their beauty. They capture moments in time at idyllic locations around Europe. His photographs of the European summer feature some of the most well known beaches in Europe, as well as hidden beaches in countries including Italy and Greece. 

It is perhaps surprising then, that in a recent interview he commented that he has two pet hates - the fascination with beauty in pictures and the ‘where is this?’ question with respect to the geographic location where they are taken. 

Vitali’s fascination is on understanding why the people in his images are doing what they're doing. His position challenges viewers to look beyond the beauty and geographic location to something more.

Vitali at home

Vitali’s primary residence is in Lucca, Italy, where his family recently converted an abandoned church into their new home and studio. The creation of this special space was a long time in the making. He was quoted, saying “We had to keep everything the same and could not create smaller rooms … Everything you dig up belongs to the state. We found tons of pottery, pieces that were beautiful but that had been used as filler. A job that would normally take a bulldozer three days took an entire month, as the archaeologist carefully documented everything she found.”

Expertly designed by renowned Italian architect, Paola Sausa, Vitali and his family did the interior design. The result is simple, yet complex, and unfortunately for him - beautiful. 

Photography by Massimo Vitali & Paul Barbera.