Collection by Sam Grawe

Alvar Aalto in Lights


International Style architect Alvar Aalto is undoubtedly Finland's best-known design export, and is often cited for his mastery of natural light. Less often discussed is his role as a designer of electric lighting—critical to the enjoyment of Finnish interior environments during the long dark winter months.

Coming from an age when architects were responsible for not only designing buildings, but often everything within, Aalto designed hundreds of light fixtures over the course of his career—usually creating a custom fixture to lend each new project a distinct character. Many of these were adapted for the commercial market and sold through Artek, the company he founded with his first wife Aino. On a recent visit to his Atelier and private home in the Munkkiniemi neighborhood of Helsinki, we cataloged Aalto's various lights—many of which were experiments that would be adapted and later customized to work with a particular project. Click the yellow slideshow button in the upper right corner to see for yourself.

Like fishing lines dangling off a pier, in Aalto's expansive office various lighting experiments hang from a small...
Outside the atelier are cast bronze lights adapted from an interior design for Finland's National Pensions Institute...
Aalto would often linger for discussion-filled afternoons in the Atelier's canteen.
The canteen also features large tensile pieces of canvas lit from behind—a design strategy Aalto later used to...
The canteen also features large tensile pieces of canvas lit from behind—a design strategy Aalto later used to...
The wall sconces in the studio are similar to desktop model A703.
A multi-hued variation of the "Enkelinsiipi" (or Angel's Wing) design (A805).
Aalto's repetitive use of gradually-stepped concentric rings earned this fixture the name "Lattiavalaisin" (or Standard...
This pendant version of lamp A335 is made from white enamel.
A624 is a large scale lamp capped by a large parabolically-curved reflector.
A623 is another of the prototypes hanging in Aalto's personal office.
A copper variation of ceiling fixture A622 casts a soft glow in the atelier's portico.
This wall fixture above the main staircase was developed for the National Pensions Institute (completed in 1956).
Above the coffee table in Aalto's home hangs one of his most well known designs, A331, the "Beehive." The home at 20...
Another fixture developed for the National Pensions Institute found its way into Aalto's home to light the dining table.
A small sconce lights the entry.
This light in an upstairs bedroom (A703) was originally developed in 1929. This is a later version sold through Artek.
In another of the bedrooms is an unusual variation of Aalto's famous "golden bell" fixture.
Standard Light A809, a floor lamp in the living area, features three ringed cones.
This sconce lights the home's upper terrace.