Or are you looking for Search the Archives?

Please complete the form to email this item.

Armchair - Paimio Armchair
  • Paimio Armchair
    Aalto, Alvar, born 1898 - died 1976
  • Enlarge image

Paimio Armchair

  • Object:

    Armchair

  • Place of origin:

    Finland (designed)
    Turku (manufactured)

  • Date:

    1932 (designed)
    ca. 1935 (manufactured)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Aalto, Alvar, born 1898 - died 1976 (designer)
    Huonekalu-ja Rakennustyötehdas Oy (manufacturer)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Painted, moulded 7-ply birch plywood seat and 4-ply laminated birch frame with solid birch struts. The paint is not original to the chair.

    The seat is 7 ply, cross-grained. The veneers are between 1 and 1.2 mm thick

    The frame is 4 ply, laminated. The two outer veneers are 3 mm thick, the two inner veneers are 5 mm thick.

    There are 3 struts on the chair – two that attach the seat to the frame and one that braces the legs under the seat. All 3 are solid wood.

  • Museum number:

    W.41-1987

  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

Like many of Alvar Aalto's furniture designs, this chair was conceived of for the Paimio sanatorium (1927-32), an isolation hospital for tuberculosis patients. This model was for its lecture hall. Anxious to provide seating that was as welcoming and comfortable as possible, Aalto decided against tubular-steel designs and opted for an all-wood construction. These armchairs, manufactured for sale by Otto Korhonen's firm and from 1935 by Artek, became among the most successful of Aalto's productions in the 1930s. The structural rationalism of separating support and supported was a fundamental principle of Modernist design. The delightful juxtaposition of coloured plywood seat and back and light birch frame has an organic quality to it, which invites one to sit down in the chair. By this time Aalto had mastered the possibilities of forming plywood in hot metal presses; the freeform curve of the seat and back is both an expression of the free will of the artist and a masterly deployment of the elasticity of the material. The chair is still in production by Artek.

Physical description

Plywood armchair with one-piece seat and back formed from a single sheet of curved plywood, painted red, supported on two frames of moulded laminated wood that form the arms and legs on each side of the chair.

Each laminated frame is stamped '103' on its underside. The two frames for Aalto chairs were always made from a single sheet of wood (the sheet cut in half and each piece used to make the laminations for a single frame). By stamping each outer veneer, the two halves from the same sheet could be matched when the chair was constructed. This armchair also has a label for 'Finmar' on its underside. Finmar were the British distributers of Aalto furniture - the chairs were often sent to Britain in pieces, meaning that the stamps on the frames were needed to match up parts before assembly.

The cuts into the chair back do not appear on all Paimio chairs - they tend to have been used only on early production versions. It isn't clear whether these were purely aesthetic, or if they had a practical role in bending the tight plywood curve at the top of the chair back. After Artek was founded in 1935, production of Aalto's furniture designs became increasingly standardised (with less choice of colour, and less oportunity to order to an individual specification in terms of size). This standardisation was in part an attempt to increase the quality of production while meeting increasing demand for large orders.

Place of Origin

Finland (designed)
Turku (manufactured)

Date

1932 (designed)
ca. 1935 (manufactured)

Artist/maker

Aalto, Alvar, born 1898 - died 1976 (designer)
Huonekalu-ja Rakennustyötehdas Oy (manufacturer)

Materials and Techniques

Painted, moulded 7-ply birch plywood seat and 4-ply laminated birch frame with solid birch struts. The paint is not original to the chair.

The seat is 7 ply, cross-grained. The veneers are between 1 and 1.2 mm thick

The frame is 4 ply, laminated. The two outer veneers are 3 mm thick, the two inner veneers are 5 mm thick.

There are 3 struts on the chair – two that attach the seat to the frame and one that braces the legs under the seat. All 3 are solid wood.

Dimensions

Height: 635 mm, Width: 610 mm, Depth: 890 mm

Descriptive line

'Paimio' armchair, designed by Alvar Aalto, manufactured by Huonekalu-ja Rakennustyötehdas Oy, painted, moulded birch plywood seat and laminated birch frame with solid birch struts, Turku, Finland, designed 1932, manufactured about 1935

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

Wilk, Christopher. Plywood: A Material Story. London: Thames & Hudson / V&A, 2017

Labels and date

Text from Plywood: Material of the Modern World (15 July-12 November 2017)

ARMCHAIR
Designed 1932

This chair was designed for the Paimio
Tuberculosis Sanitorium in Finland and
made by a small factory. In 1933 the
factory began manufacturing the chairs
for general sale, alongside other furniture
designs by Finnish architect Alvar Aalto.
Aalto’s furniture was exported in large
quantities to the UK and the USA, where
its innovative use of plywood had a
significant impact on other designers.

Designed by Alvar Aalto (1898–1976)
Manufactured about 1935 by Huonekalu-ja
Rakennustyötehdas Oy
Turku, Finland
Painted, moulded 7-ply birch plywood seat and
4-ply laminated birch frame with solid birch struts
(the paint is not original to the chair)

V&A: W.41-1987

[2017]
Armchair
1930
Alvar Aalto (1898-1976)

This chair, the best known plywood chair of its time, is one of the defining objects of 'humanised' Modernism. Intended for the Paimio sanatorium, it has an organic, biomorphic quality that invites the user to sit down. The design has been widely imitated and remains in production today.

Finland Manufactured by Huonekalu-ja Rakennustyötehdas Oy, Turku
Birch plywood and solid birch, painted seat
V&A: W.41-1987 [27/02/2006]

Materials

Birch plywood; Birch; Paint

Techniques

Bending; Moulding

Categories

Furniture

Collection

Furniture and Woodwork Collection

Large image request

Please confirm you are using these images within the following terms and conditions, by acknowledging each of the following key points:

Please let us know how you intend to use the images you will be downloading.