At the MAXXI in Rome, 11 projects to immerse yourself in the world of Aino, Elissa and Alvar Aalto, the Finnish architects who designed the buildings and everything that was needed inside

«True architecture exists only when it places the human being at the centre» Alvar Aalto wrote about his work. And this human dimension of the project becomes the underlying theme of the exhibition of the same name that MAXXI of Rome dedicates to Aalto, Alvar, Aino and Elissa, three architects united by a vision of making architecture, or rather, of designing which always has man at the centre.

« Making architecture more human means making better architecture», continues Aalto in his focus, shared with his two life and work companions. If Aino accompanies him in his first plans to abandon him prematurely, Elissa will be her accomplice for her life, also in giving an international dimension to the Finnish studio that will become known throughout the world.

The exhibition has the merit first of all of bringing the public inside some symbolic places of Aalto's work and of playing with what these places have become or mean today.

In dialogue with the architects' projects and archive photographs are the shots and graphic games of the photographer and artist Ramak Fazel. Who worked not only to lend his own gaze to Aalto's buildings but also to curate Space Caviar (Joseph Grima, Sofia Pia Belenky, Lorenzo Bondavalli, Nils Oh, Barbara Doroszuk and Elena Zannetou) an artistic intervention on the exhibition space.

Let's start from the beginning: the swimming pool of Villa Mairea. You enter inside, with the water exceeding (on average) the heads of the visitors: a wooden skeleton of that shape, rounded for the first time and in tune with nature (recalling one of the many lakes in Finland) reproduces it in scale 1:1 and marks mandatory entry to the exhibition for anyone who wants to see it.

On the wall, the blue line with related wording indicates the water level. An interesting game because the curved wood immediately recalls stools and chairs from the projects of the architects Aalto, the shape of the swimming pool shows both its novelty for the time and its custom for us (Hollywood immediately adopted it in every villa) and the photos of Fazel on the walls, to be leafed through like a large magazine, tell the second life of those bodies of water.

The drought that hit the West Coast in the 1970s turned those pools into splendid skate parks, perfect for acrobatic feats on the board.

The visit begins and the immersion in the eleven projects selected to tell the story of five decades of activity on a human scale are displayed on cubes made up of overlapping bricks of different types - solid, raw earth, perforated - ready to be returned to the manufacturing companies that lent them to the set-up.

Curatorial ecology, of course, but also a close dialogue with the Casa Sperimentale, a marvel designed as a holiday home for architects and an area for experimenting with materials exposed to the elements.

How do the different bricks on the facade or flooring of this little house in the woods, overlooking the lake, react?

The displays do not change and become a feature of the exhibition itinerary, punctuated on the ceiling by large spherical chandeliers in white opaline on which a number has been painted in red paint.

Their counterpart is found on the wall and indicates which project you are looking at: the experimental house, the Casa de Popolo of Jyväskylä, the civic library of Viipuri (Russia), the civic center of Säynätsalo, the library of Mount Angel Abbey ( USA), Villa Mairea, the National Institute of Social Security in Helsinki, the Church and parish center of Riola (in Italy), the dormitories of MIT (USA), the Paimio Sanatorium and the Cellulose Factory and the residential neighborhood by Sunila, alongside a video game complete with a viewer to immerse yourself in the world of Aalto, furniture for children, fabrics, glass works and the history of Artek , the company that the Aaltos had founded to produce their own designer objects.

Of course, man is at the center of the discussion in a series of public buildings designed for everyone, for the community, in a philosophy of design as a total work: a building is designed and everything needed for it inside for people to use.

Thus the handles of the sanatorium doors were designed in such a way as to prevent the sleeves of the patients' clothes from getting caught and the sinks had a particular inclination so as to accompany the water from the tap and prevent the liquid from falling onto the ceramic from causing a noise that is too loud and annoying for the patients.

An example, which then extends to furniture: armchairs, beds, plates, cutlery, trays designed for that place but perfect for entering people's private homes too. This is how Artek and Aalto's design were born: from the particular to the universal.

Light guides the projects, always designed to dialogue with the interiors, both as natural light and diffused by the lamps, designed by Aalto. The reference to nature cannot be missed even in the long, dark Finnish winters which are illuminated by something capable of recalling the sun filtering through the leaves of the trees, that of a beehive or of illuminating like a spotlight the exact point you want, while the public libraries have overhead lighting of the individual positions conceived, as in Viipuri, taking into account different ways of sitting in front of a book and the - human - need to change position.

The sanatorium has low windows, designed so that patients could admire the outside panorama from the bed and the civic center on the island of Säynätsalo also uses bricks inside, illuminated, like the other wooden furnishings, with large windows to give guests a welcome and at the same time a sense of continuity with the outside.

And then the colours, the materials, the printed cotton fabrics, the functional but delicate objects in their natural shapes. What makes man feel good in his daily life?

AALTO - Aino Alvar Elissa. The human dimension of the project. MAXXI, Rome, until May 26th.