'I have picked people up on the street': the secret life of architect Alvar Aalto
He built wild, magical buildings and furniture that is still thrilling today. But a new film suggests the celebrated Finn was also a domineering philanderer deeply indebted to his talented wives.
Wonky lumps of misshapen, scorched bricks burst from a block of student flats in Cambridge, Massachusetts, giving a warty look to the long wall that winds its way along the Charles River. “The lousiest bricks in the world,” is how Finnish architect Alvar Aalto described the local New England materials he used for his Baker House dorms at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1947. It was meant as a compliment – he loved their twisted, blackened, brutish texture, which gave the walls the look of coarse tweed.
The pockmarked wall is one of many such strange and beautiful things covered in a new feature-length documentary film about Aalto, Finland’s most famous designer export and one of the most celebrated architects of the 20th century, who built a career on his obsessive attention to material details. Always thinking about the human experience of moving through a building, he considered everything from the feel of a leather-wrapped door handle to the pleasure of a misshapen brick...