Design: Still Fresh after 50 Years

In New York City, the winning virtues of Finland's Alvar Aalto

The architect Alvar Aalto, bless him, was always slightly out of it. He never lingered at the hothouse of Germany's Bauhaus; instead he spent the '20s in provincial Finland, designing for towns. His buildings are modern all right, sleek and sensible and just a bit Martian, but Aalto never took the final vows of modernism. Strict symmetry and monoliths left him cold. Rather, an Aalto building is apt to swell or zigzag confoundingly, to have lines and textures that seem more botanical and...

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