Institute Archives & Special Collections
Telegram from Aalto
here to see larger image of telegram
Aalto at work, late 1940's
Photograph in Institute Archives and
Special Collections, MIT
1958 Alvar Aalto, Finland's leading architect, sent a telegram to John Burchard,
Dean of MIT's School of Humanities and Social Science, declining to express
an architectural philosophy. Burchard, whose background was in architecture,
was Aalto's personal friend as well as a colleague.
Aalto had agreed
to visit MIT as a Research Professor of Architecture in the fall of 1940.
At the behest of his government he returned suddenly to Finland in October
1940 to head a national reconstruction program to build housing for Finns
displaced by the war. He returned to MIT from 1945 to 1951. Aalto's most tangible
achievement while at the Institute was Baker House, an undulating dormitory
on Memorial Drive, overlooking the Charles River. The dorm was completed in
Aalto was noted
for his affinity with and sensitive use of natural materials, including bricks.
He was drawn to open space, natural light, and sculptural shapes. Unconcerned
with abstract architectural theory, he developed a design for each project
after careful observation and immersion in the individual characteristics
of the site.
and other documents relating to Aalto and
to Baker House are available for research in several
of the MIT Libraries, including the Institute Archives
and Special Collections. Materials available in the Archives range from
the amusing (Mrs. Frank Lloyd Wright's telegram about Aalto's delayed arrival
at MIT: "Mr. Wright took him to Minneapolis Monday afternoon their whereabouts
at the moment are unknown...") to the serious (School of Architecture Dean William
Wurster to Alvar Aalto: "Moreland and Compton both tried to make out that artificially
lighted corridors are as good as daylighted ones!"). Memos and drawings relating
to Baker House are complemented by personal and professional communications
between Aalto and members of the MIT administration.
Object of the
Month: October 1999