If you happen to be in London, you should hightail it over to the Barbican Art Gallery where one of the most talked about architectural shows in the city, Alvar Aalto Through the Eyes of Shigeru Ban, is being showcased from now until mid-May. Beautifully curated by world-renowned Japanese architect Ban, the exhibition traces the life and work of legendary architect Alvar Aalto whose modernist designs made him a national treasure in his native Finland and put him on par with the likes of Le Corbusier and Mies Van der Rohe.
The show cleverly links the work of both Ban and Aalto in focusing on their shared humanitarian concerns in architecture as well an inclination on the part of both architects to use conventional and banal materials in the realization of their projects. Aalto’s designs were inspired by organic forms in nature. An early advocator of pre-fab, he believed that every structure should encompass the characteristics of ‘living cells’ which could develop and grow simultaneously with the surrounding environment. Aalto is also best remembered for his work on the pre-fabricated houses which he designed to ease the housing crisis after the Second World War. A professor of architecture in Kobe, Japan, international attention was similarly brought to Ban’s work when he utilized paper tubes to construct temporary housing for displaced victims during the 1995 Kobe earthquake.
Image by Heikki Havas, courtesy of the Barbican Art Gallery
The exhibition primarily features Aalto’s drawings, plans, photographs and design prototypes which are additionally enhanced by the subtlety of Ban’s own signature aesthetic – rows of paper tubes structured as room-partitions. Some additional highlights include a small-scale model of Aalto’s Finnish pavilion during the New York World’s Fair of 1935 – 36, in which undulating walls were constructed to evoke the northern lights of the architect’s beloved homeland.