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Furniture > Armchairs

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87/109 Armchair, 'Paimio', laminated and ply birch wood, designed by Alvar Aalto, Finland, 1930-1931, made by Artek, Finland, 1986
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Object statement
Armchair, 'Paimio', laminated and ply birch wood, designed by Alvar Aalto, Finland, 1930-1931, made by Artek, Finland, 1986
Alvar Aalto (1898-1976) was a Finnish architect and designer, known for his humanising and sensitive design ethic. This chair formed part of the furniture Aalto designed for his Paimio Tuberculosis Sanatorium, a medical facility set up for Tuberculosis (TB) sufferers, slightly north of Turku, between the two World Wars. Aalto won a competition for its design in 1928 and its construction was complete five years later. It was the first project where Aalto designed both the building and its furnishings.

The architectural design for the Sanatorium reflected the needs of patients, with insulated walls to minimise the usual hospital noises; balconies and windows oriented to capture the maximum amount of direct sunlight (a key treatment in a TB patient's recovery) and draftless window ventilation to reduce dust and maintain a constant air temperature. Aalto extended these sympathetic design features to the smaller scale medium of furniture. As demonstrated with this armchair, Aalto used wood bending technologies to create organic forms which best suited the natural contours of the body. At a time when tubular steel and severe geometrical designs were still popular, especially among designers like Marcel Breuer and Mies van der Rohe, Aalto turned to more traditional materials. He believed wood was warmer and alleviated the coldness of an institutional feeling. It was also lighter and cheaper; it could be easily curved, stretched or compressed and it was naturally quite buoyant. Given these capabilities, Aalto set the chair at a 110 degree angle (to support a TB patient's breathing); the front of the arm was curved to provide a secure support when getting up; the surface of the chair could be easily cleaned, which made it sanitary, and there were air vents in the top back of the chair to ventilate the user's neck. Aalto was also mindful of the chair's construction. He experimented with different types of plywood for three years leading up to the 'Paimio', ensuring its strength through the varying thickness of the sections, as well as the interior bending tensions of the seat back.

This armchair complements the Tea Trolley '900' also in the Museum's collection (97/317/1). It was designed by Aalto to be used by nurses dispensing medication to patients at the Sanatorium.

Melanie Pitkin
Assistant Curator, Design & Society
July 2010
This chair was produced from birch, a timber heavily forested in Finland.
This armchair was purchased from Artek through Finnish Importing, Australia in 1987.

 This text content licensed under CC BY-NC.

Description
Armchair, 'Paimio', laminated and ply birch wood, designed by Alvar Aalto, Finland, 1930-1931, made by Artek, Finland, 1986

'Paimio' armchair in laminated birch plywood. The seat and back is made from one-piece of moulded and curved plywood painted white. There are four horizontal slits in the top of the back rest. The seat and back are supported on armrests. The legs and base are also made from one piece of curved plywood, unpainted.
Made: 1986

designed: 1930 - 1931
87/109
Production date
1986
Height
650 mm
Width
600 mm
Depth
830 mm

 This text content licensed under CC BY-SA.
Acquisition credit line
Purchased 1987
Short persistent URL
Concise link back to this object: http://from.ph/69827
Cite this object in Wikipedia
Copy and paste this wiki-markup:

{{cite web |url=http://from.ph/69827 |title=87/109 Armchair, 'Paimio', laminated and ply birch wood, designed by Alvar Aalto, Finland, 1930-1931, made by Artek, Finland, 1986 |author=Powerhouse Museum |accessdate=26 October 2014 |publisher=Powerhouse Museum, Australia}}


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