To a journalist who asked him what features should a city have? Alvar Aalto said, “You should not go from home to work without having to cross a forest.” In the collective Finnish, forest has a strong presence.

According to Alvar Aalto, architecture should replace neither the forest nor the farm, but rather act as a complement for both. Nature is for him the essence of his personality and of his works. “Real” forest: “real” as the place of the building, “metaphorical” forest as the interior space of the building.

“Minus 35 ° degrees”, he told friends in Helsinki, it was that cold on that morning, but the sun was shining on the crystals of the copious snow that had fallen during the night. How can we not think of the landscapes of snow written by Mario Rigoni Stern? Finland, the endless light of summer and the dark endless winter.

Aalto first adheres to functionalism that aims to improve the living conditions, residential architecture that is industrially produced, socially acceptable, hygienic and as cheap as possible. Dividing the functions of the city for living, for work, for leisure and traffic, is still the approach present today. But his real world was different. After the experience of Paimio, Aalto gained a place in the history of international architecture. He hated rules and regulations and started talking about natural balance between the individual and the community. Functionalism lacks human quality.

The wooden ceiling in the auditorium of the Library of Vipuri, with its free organic form is an anticipation of his subsequent inventions.

I wanted to see for a long time Villa Mairea, which marked a new phase in the life of this Finnish architect. Villa Mairea at Noormakku, 1937, grand but also intimate, designed with “love” as recalled by Aalto. The handrail is curved, revolving around the poles with extreme ease. There is a lot of femininity, sensuality in the forms that “move” the space. The stairways rise, enclosed by wooden pails that look like trunks of trees, close fitting to let you see only bits of the stairs and the window glass in the background; and then again outside the trees, forest, light. Inside the forest, outside the forest. Timber is used preferentially for coverings and as a material for the interior, as it allows direct contact with the surrounding nature and because it is the raw material of this land. Bio-architecture.

The organic nature, humanity and the service of man are evident here in all their force. Aalto writes: “The form is a mystery that eludes definition, but that brings well-being to the individual, in a manner quite different from that of a simple social welfare.”

Finland, a land rooted in its history and its fairy tales.

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