Alvar Aalto - Design New York Wednesday, May 25, 2011 | Phillips

Create your first list.

Select an existing list or create a new list to share and manage lots you follow.

  • Literature

    Aarno Ruusuvuori, ed., Alvar Aalto 1898-1978, Helsinki, 1978, p. 145, fig. 202; Richard Weston, Alvar Aalto, London, 1955, p. 164, fig. 38

  • Catalogue Essay

    Alvar Aalto first designed the present model bronze door handles for the Rautatalo (Iron House) office building in Helsinki, which he completed in 1955. He subsequently used this design in other projects. As visible in the catalogue illustration, his handles could be stacked at varying levels, allowing for easy use depending on one’s height. Finnish architect Juhani Pallasmaa refers to the door handle as the “handshake of the building.” In this sense, door handles introduce and define the experience of entering a given space; they are the starting point for our engagement with architecture. Jean-Paul Sartre wrote in La Nausée: “I stopped short because I felt in my hand a cold object which held my attention through a sort of personality. I opened my hand, looked: I was simply holding the door-knob.”

  • Artist Biography

    Alvar Aalto

    Finnish • 1898 - 1976

    In contrast with the functionalism of the International Style (as well the neoclassicism put forward by the Nazi and Soviet regimes), Alvar Aalto brought a refreshing breath of humanism to modern design: "True architecture exists only where man stands in the center," he wrote. Aalto designed furniture in stack-laminated plywood composed of Finnish birch, which was cost-effective and lent warmth to his interiors. Aalto also revived Finnish glass design with his entries in the various Karhula-Iitala glassworks competitions throughout the 1930s.

    In 1936 he won first place for a collection of colorful, wavy vases in various sizes titled Eskimoerindens skinnbuxa (The Eskimo Woman’s Leather Breeches). The vases were an immediate success and the most popular size, now known as the "Savoy" vase, is still in production today. Aalto's freeform designs, in harmony with human needs and nature, anticipated the organic modernism of the 1950s and 1960s; in particular, his innovations in bent plywood had a major impact on designers such as Charles and Ray Eames.

    View More Works


Door handle

Bronze, later glass mount
20 1/2 x 2 x 4 in. (52.1 x 5.1 x 10.2 cm).
Produced by Valaistus, Finland. Handle impressed with “VALAISTUS,” and incised with “MATILLE HYVIÄ ELÄKEVUOSIA TYÖTOVERIT” (Good retirement years to Matti from colleagues.)

$3,000 - 5,000 

Sold for $6,000


25 May 2011
New York