THE ALVAR AALTO VASE ISN’T JUST FOR HOLDING FLOWERS. IT CAN BE USED TO DISPLAY FRUIT OR STAND ALONE AS ART
THE YEAR IS 1937 and the name on everyone’s lips is Aalto – or as it was known back then, the Savoy – a glass vase that won first prize at the Paris World Fair. A year earlier, an architect by the name of Hugo Alvar Henrik Aalto had entered the vase into a design competition held by the Iittala glass factory in Finland, which was looking for pieces to display in the World Fair’s Finnish pavilion. Aalto was an architect by trade, but working with glass objects offered an opportunity for him to explore his more spontaneous and creative sides. The vase was, in fact, one of many designs he and his wife Aino created for the luxury Savoy restaurant in Helsinki. The original sketches included sharper curves, but were modified because the moulding techniques available at the time simply couldn’t replicate them. It was meant to be – the end result became one of the most famous glass designs in the world.
The vase’s fluid glass folds are reminiscent of the Finnish landscape and lakes, but it was Aalto’s liberated approach to design that really set this piece apart. He believed people should be able to look at and use objects in multiple ways – notice how the free-form curves allow flowers to fall away from each other so their beauty can be seen from all angles. In a bittersweet twist, Aalto never made a dollar from the vase because the original design belonged to Iittala, which ran the competition. To this day, Iittala reproduces the vase in 11 shades using new materials, with Aalto now recognised as the most important Finnish architect of his generation.