Jussi Jäppinen & Risto Oikarinen
English Text: Arja Kantele
This biographical cartoon is the first volume in a series of three dealing with the life of the famous Finnish architect Alvar Aalto. The authors used Göran Schildt's Alvar Aalto. The early tears as their principal guide.
The use of a cartoon format to discuss the early life of Alvar Aalto is a rather novel and unconventional approach, which brings its own set of advantages and disadvantages over the usual written book format. Such a cartoon format may not be as suitable for scholarly reading as a written biography, but it is definitely engaging, entertaining and very capable in portraying a whole range of issues and events in the architect's early life in the space of a few pages.
This first volume details the years from Aalto's birth and early childhood in the small village of Kuortane in Western Finland, the family's move to Jyväskylä, where his family were associated with several prominent figures in Finnish society and where he attended Jyväskylä lyceum. Aalto wrote for the school paper, Halilulla and was a member of the school's temperance society. After finishing school Aalto went to Helsinki for further study. His study was interrupted twice, first by his arrest by the Russians and then by the Finnish civil war, in which he fought as a White Finnish soldier. Aalto's several trips overseas to cities such as Stockholm, Gothenburg and Riga are mentioned as are some of his earliest commissions - such as the guard house in Alajärvi and the Jyväskylä Workers' House. The first volume also documents his marriage to Aino Marsio and his ideas for the beautification of Jyväskylä.
The graphics are of a good standard, and the book makes for generally enjoyable reading. The book is also quite short. Narrative commentary is kept to a minimum, with the dialogue of the characters mostly responsible for informing the reader of developments in Aalto's life. Generally this succeeds, the reader can follow developments in Aalto's life, although it can be difficult at times to keep track of some of the other characters in his life at any particular point in time.
No knowledge of Aalto's life or work is really needed to follow most of this first volume, making this book a useful light-hearted introduction to the life of one of Finland's most celebrated citizens and hopefully spurring the reader on to find out more about the famous architect.