North Jutland's KUNSTEN Museum of Modern Art Aalborg was designed jointly by the Finnish architects Alvar and Elissa Aalto and the Danish architect Jean-Jacques Baruël. The museum is a major work in the history of Danish architecture in being the only building in Denmark by the world-renowned Modernist architect Alvar Aalto. He won the design contract as early as in 1958, but financial problems caused delays and the museum was not completed until 1972. By then, an exclusive and costly anachronism, it met with harsh criticism for being elitist and conservative.
The Finnish architect Alvar Aalto is celebrated as one of the greatest masters of Modernist architecture, but many people may be more familiar with his work as a designer without even knowing it. In the 1930s, Aalto developed a new lamination technique that made it possible to press wood into new organic shapes. The aim was to be able to use wood as a material without losing its structure and durability. Achieving this freedom made it possible to rethink the latest breakthroughs in design; cold steel could be rejected in favour of 'warm' wood. As Aalto himself put it in 1940: "Steel and chromium surfaces are not satisfactory from the human point of view". The design accomplishments of Aalto's work with wood as a medium are many and varied, but common to all of Aalto's wooden furniture is its simple, but refined design that harmonises with the wood as the structural material. This is true for example of the legendary three-legged 'Stool 60', which Aalto designed in 1932-33 for the library in Viipuri, Finland. This simple, solid, stackable stool is possibly the best-known piece of Aalto design and is still manufactured by the firm Artek, which Aalto personally helped to found. In Denmark, the stool is still much used in both private residences and public buildings, so even if you don't recognise Aalto, you may well have sat on his stool!