Professor Harry Charrington, Head of School of Architecture + Cities, is one of the main narrators and consultants in a newly released documentary about the influential Finnish architect Alvar Aalto.

Alvar Aalto

The documentary explores the life and work of Aalto, the defining figure in Scandic design and one of Europe's greatest modern architects, and focuses on his remarkable and loving partnership with his first wife Aino.

Narrated by experts in the field and featuring never before seen archive footage, Aalto tells the love story of an extraordinary couple with a great passion for human scale architecture.

Professor Charrington was approached for the project because of his research on the practice of Aalto which stems from his experience working for Aalto’s second wife Elissa at the Alvar Aalto atelier in Helsinki in the mid-1980s while he was a student at the University of Cambridge.

Professor Charrington says he sought to bring to light the artistry of Aalto – and his often overlooked partners Aino and Elissa, as well as his atelier and collaborators. His book, Alvar Aalto the Mark of the Hand, co-authored with Vezio Nava, was an oral history of the Aalto atelier based around 35 interviews with members of the atelier and the furniture company Artek. He was awarded the RIBA President’s Medal for Research in 2012.

In 2016 Professor Charrington contributed to the first ever retrospective on the Aaltos’ pioneering furniture company exhibition Artek and the Aaltos at the Bard in New York, and accompanying book.

As a result of this work he was consulted by the documentary maker Virpi Suutari on the new film Aalto.

Speaking about the film, Professor Charrington said: “It was a privilege to be involved in the project, the Aaltos were hugely influential architects, and Virpi has restored the women of these partnerships to their rightful place in the story of ‘Aalto’. She entwines personal and professional narratives with vivid high-definition footage and archival material. Being asked to narrate as well was unexpected but enjoyable, even if I feel conspicuous as the only British voice in the film!”

The film is now available on demand from the Barbican.

There will also be a further online screening of ‘Aalto’ at this year’s London Festival of Architecture on 4 June, when Professor Charrington will be speaking with the Director, Virpi Suutari, in a Q&A afterwards.

The trailer for the film is available on Youtube.

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