[2010] "Japonism and Alvar Aalto"

Went to the above mentioned lecture at Meiji University, presented by Leif Høgfeldt Hansen, Associate Professor in Architectural History at Aarhus School of Architecture, Denmark.

What did I learn? That the "missing link" between Japan, F.L. Wright and Aalto may be Antonin Raymond and his published works about Japan. For sure, in Europe Bruno Taut and others are more well known to have strongly influenced the picture about Japan. But Raymond? Did he publish? Obviously at least one VERY nice book about his own "Architectural Details" in 1938 with only 1000 copies, pretty rare by now. Added some references in the "further readings" section. That Aalto and Raymond might have met is quite possible, as the following fact illustrates. Both attended a symposium in New York in May 1939, Aalto as speaker, Raymond in the audience, see here.

4 February 2010
4 February 2010

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Comments: 3
  • #1

    Leif Høgfeldt Hansen (Thursday, 19 January 2012 19:24)

    I am very happy you attended my lecture. Unfortunately, you seem to have misunderstood something.
    The whole lecture had two major statements. 1) Aalto was very inspired by the book: Das Japanische Wohnhaus by Yoshida from 1935. He even used it as a design manual for his Wintergarden in Villa Mairea finished 1939. 2) All Scandinavian architects (Also Utzon) at the time were inspired by the Japanese teahouse Zui-ki-tei build 1935 in Stockholm initiated by Ida Trotzig . As Aalto several times a year during the mid-thirties went to Stockholm to meet Asplund the assumption is from many scholars on Aalto (also Pallasmaa) that he went to see this teahouse.
    These two elements of inspirational sources from Japanese architecture were according to my lecture, what started to inspire the transition of his architecture to 'soft modernism', which can be traced back to 1935 in the design of his own house.
    Since then I have realized that his connection and taks to The Japanese ambassador and wife in Finland Ichikawa, and the group of small tourist books about Japanese culture they gave him has influenced him - how much is difficult to say.

    Probably in 1937, the exact time is unclear, Aalto got Taut's book houses and people of Japan from the Finnish cultural attaché in Japan Hugo Valvanne. The influence on Aalto from this book is uncertain.

    Who I didn't mention at the lecture was Antonin Raymond, but there were unclear discussions about him afterwards. Therefor this:
    Aalto met Antonin Raymond in 1938 probably in connection with his exhibition at MOMA, which opened 16. Marts 1938. At this occasion Antonin Raymond gave the book 'Architectural Details' to Aalto with a dedication. The material in this book might have inspired Aalto in the final stages of the design of Villa Mairea, which was completed in 1939, but wasn't what triggered his interest for Japan. He met Raymond again many times in USA also in 1939 as mentioned.
    Aaltos meeting with F.L.Wright and visits to many of his buildings with a flavor of Japan from 1939 and onwards also had an obvious impact on the later architecture.
    This is written at the Alvar Aalto Studio at Munkkiniemi, Helsinki, Finland sitting with Antonin Raymonds book 'Architectural Details' in my hands with the dedication: To Alvar Aalto, New York 1938 - Antonin Raymond.

  • #2

    Robert Baum (Wednesday, 25 January 2012 01:15)

    Hi Leif,

    I and the readers of this blog really appreciate your additional comments, thanks a lot.

  • #3

    braskamineristockholm (Wednesday, 03 May 2017 20:17)

    Great