Aino Aalto (1894-1949) was a well-known Finnish architect and designer. She studied architecture at the Helsinki University of Technology like her husband, the famous Alvar Aalto. In 1920 she went to work for architect Oiva Kallio in Helsinki. Then in 1923 she went to work at the office of Gunnar A. Wahlroos, Jyväskylä, and moved to Alvar Aalto’s office the following year when the got married.
The Aaltos first moved their office to Turku in 1927, and started collaborating with architect Erik Bryggman. Then they moved the office to Helsinki in 1933. In the early years of their marriage and design partnership Aino Aalto and her husband would enter architectural competitions with their own separate entries. In the mid 1920s the Aaltos became the first architects in Finland to adopt the purified Functionalist style of architecture coming from central Europe. In Aino Aalto’s own individual work this comes out in her entry for the Finnish pavilion for the 1939 New York World’s Fair, the first prize for which, however, was won by Alvar Aalto.
This was the beginning of a long and fruitful partnership. In 1935 Aino Aalto, together with Alvar Aalto, Maire Gullichsen and Nils-Gustav Hahl, founded Artek, a world renowned furniture and lighting company. She played an important role in Artek; she was involved in the company’s development and worked as Managing Director from 1941 to 1949. In many ways it was Aino who laid the foundation for the aesthetics of Artek, which combined the modernist idea of clear form with simple surface ornamentation based on the structure of materials.
Aino Aalto had a brilliant career as a furniture and interior designer, an architect and a photographer, but is mainly known for her glassware design. Aino Aalto’s most famous design is probably the Aino Aalto glassware range, created in 1932 with the name of Bölgeblick, rings of water. The range was designed for a competition which was organized with the aim of producing drinking glasses that would be suitable for mass production. Aino Aalto, who in the competition beat her husband, Alvar Aalto, was inspired by the rings made when a stone hits the water. Her design gained immediate international recognition and won the Gold Medal in the 1936 Milan Triennal. In production since 1932, Aino Aalto’s glasses are ideal for the everyday use but also for elegant dinner parties. Their simple design is what makes them a timeless classic – perfect for the table still today as it was in 1932.
Aino Aalto also designed several glassware objects for the Finnish company Iittala, who made household objects. Her most famous glass design is still on sale, and slightly different copies made by companies such as IKEA are widespread. She also collaborated with her husband on the design of the celebrated Savoy Vase in 1936.
In 2004 an exhibition and book (edited by Ulla Kinnunen) was arranged at the Alvar Aalto Museum, Jyväskylä, Finland, featuring the life’s work of Aino Aalto.