Many of his projects involved site planning of building groups. Two such projects were the master plans of colleges at Otaniemi (1949-55) and at Jyvaskyla (1952-57). Aalto’s experience in planning originated early with such industrial commissions as the Sunila cellulose factory (designed 1936-39, built 1951-54), which included workers’ housing and was a triumph of comprehensive planning.
The single work that epitomizes Aalto’s mature style is perhaps the Saynatsalo town hall group. Modest in scale in its forest setting, it nonetheless assets a quiet force. Its simple forms are in red brick, wood, and copper, all traditional materials of Finland. Viewing it, a person feels the achievement of a perfect building, in that the essence of the time, the place, the people, and their purpose is brought into focus by the awareness of the architect.
There are two buildings by Aalto in the United States: Baker House dormitory, at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, where Aalto was professor of architecture from 1945 to 1949; and the library of Mount Angel Abbey (a Benedictine college and seminary), in Oregon. Baker House, on the embankment of the Charles River, takes the form of a six-storey serpentine wall of rough red brick. Each of the dormitory rooms, some of which are wedge-shaped, has a view either up or down the river. Like Baker House, the Mount Angel library is an example of Aalto’s response to the site. Its interior construction follows the downward-sloping terrain, enclosing a dramatic, multilevel room that fans out from the entrance. The bookcases are arranged in radial pattern, and the room is lighted by curved skylights that repeat the rhythmic lines of the balconies.
Aalto received many honours. He was a member of the Academy of Finland (Suomen Aketemia) and was its president from 1963 to 1968; he was a member of the Congres Internationaux d’Architecture Moderne from 1928 to 1956. His awards included the Royal Gold Medal for Architecture from the Royal Institute of British Architects (1957) and the Gold Medal from the American Institute of Architects (1963). He died in Helsinki on May 11, 1976. – William Benton (1943-1973), Helen Hemingway Benton (1973-1974). “The New Encyclopedia Britannica”