Art: Man at the Center

In his 58-year career as a master builder, Finland's Alvar Aalto won architectural award after award, and became perhaps his small nation's most famous figure—in effect, a national monument. When he died last week, at 78, Finland—and indeed the entire world of architecture—mourned his loss.

Aalto built widely in Finland and Scandinavia with a few structures elsewhere in Europe and the U.S. A total individualist, he broke away from stiff neo-classicism and stark Bauhaus, and ranks with Frank Lloyd Wright, Le Corbusier and Mies van der Rohe as an architectural innovator. Unlike...

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