Artek Greets Alvar Aalto with the Tea Trolley 900

Alvar Aalto and curved wood are practically synonymous: it is impossible to mention one without thinking of the other. The Finnish architect revolutionized the worlds of furniture design and architecture with the style he called “Organic Functionalism”. His process for bending laminated birch into gracefully curved loops, developed in 1932, created strong and lightweight frames present in much of his iconic furniture. Wood, he believed is ”the form-inspiring, deeply human material” and objects “are made to be completed by the human mind.”

Tea Trolley 900. Designed by Alvar Aalto and produced by Artek.

His experiments led to the design of the Model No.41 Paimio Scroll Chair and soon after a cantilevered version, fulfilling his goal of “making a wooden chair ‘soft.” After exhibiting his furniture in London in 1935 to great acclaim, Aalto experienced heightened consumer demand and as a result founded the company Artek that same year with his wife Aino, Marie Gullichsen and Nils-Gustav Hahl. In 1937 at the World’s Fair in Paris, Aalto debuted Tea Trolley 900, now part of the permanent collection at the Museum of Modern Art in New York.



Bent birch plywood curved into loops creates the framework for Tea Trolley 900, exemplifying Aalto’s patented process. The frame can be finished in either natural lacquer or lacquered white with black or white ceramic tiles and comes with a rattan basket. Oversized white wheels make the piece remarkbly easy to move around. Tea Trolley 900 is an Aalto classic, and furthermore, highly practical. At approximately $3,090, this doesn’t come cheap.

From city planning and architecture to interior design, furniture design and painting, Alvar Aalto was involved in design at every scale. His paintings, he explained, were a part of his architectural design process and his small-scale “sculptural experiments” often led to larger architectural details and forms. Aalto’s work was extremely influential for now renowned American designers Charles and Ray Eames (Eames Lounger) and Finnish designer Eero Saarinen.  Countless others have used his bent laminated wood processes to create their own pieces from the Suomi lamp manufactured by Luz Difusion to Jeremy Kaplan’s felt chaise lounge.  Seductive curves, strong but lightweight forms: Alvar Aalto’s revolutionary processes will long be viewed as modern. 

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