László Moholy-Nagy and Alvar Aalto’s Connections

Between Biotechnik and Umwelt

Alvar Aalto flexible standardization biology rationalization Biotechnik Umwelt László Moholy-Nagy


December 30, 2020


Departing from the fact that László Moholy-Nagy’s Von Material zu Architektur (1929), had been an important source of inspiration for Alvar Aalto, this article examines the affinities between László Moholy-Nagy and Alvar Aalto’s intellectual positions. The article places emphasis on two particular ideas: how Aalto and Moholy-Nagy conceived the connection of biology with standardization and technology and its relationship to light and perception. Special attention is paid to the notions of “flexible standardisation” and rationalisation in Aalto’s thought, as well as to his belief that nature and standardization should be conceived are closely interconnected. In regard to their shared intellectual development, the article sheds light on the first encounters of the two men including: their meeting at the second Congrès International de l’Architecture Moderne (CIAM) in 1929; the June 1931 Finish meeting of Aino Marsio-Aalto, Alvar Aalto, Moholy-Nagy and Ellen Frank; the June 1931 exchanges between Aalto and Moholy-Nagy during the inner circle CIAM meeting in Berlin; and the common stay of the Aaltos and Moholy-Nagy in London in 1933 are discussed. Particular emphasis is placed on Aalto’s “The Reconstruction of Europe is the Key Problem for the Architecture of Our Time”, in which he argued that standardization in architecture should draw upon biological models. 

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