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Dr Maximilian Sternberg and Gates Cambridge Scholar Sofia Singler have received seed funding from the Cambridge Centre for Visual Culture for a project provisionally entitled ‘Projection: Alvar Aalto and the Moving Image’. The project will launch with a research event in Lent Term, featuring distinguished documentary filmmaker Virpi Suutari, whose film on Aalto premieres in 2020, and director of the Alvar Aalto Museum, Tommi Lindh. A panel of presentations by Suutari, Lindh, Sternberg and Singler will be hosted in Pembroke College on 12 March 2020.

The lectures will serve to explore new perspectives on Alvar Aalto at the intersection of scholarly, artistic and curatorial practices. Widely recognised as the greatest Nordic modern architect of the twentieth century, Aalto holds a privileged place in the historiography of modernism. However, Aalto’s relationship to the moving image – a growing field of study in architectural history – has not yet been subject to extensive research.

The lectures will be preceded by a research meeting which will serve to scope out key themes, objectives and methods around which a future collaboration can develop. The project seeks to interrogate the interpretative possibilities of fiction and documentary film, as well as 3D/AR, for the architectural history and historiography of Aalto’s oeuvre and modernism more broadly, with a particular emphasis on the role of the urban context and everyday life.

The project seeks not only to address the medium of the moving image in relation to architecture and architectural history, but also to expand its conceptual and methodological possibilities. The collaboration with a leading film practitioner will lead to the production of films and 3D/AR simulations as research outputs that complement traditional written scholarship. Working with a museum director and curators, in turn, will open up opportunities to mediate the findings of the research, through an exhibition and publications, to a wider audience beyond academia.

Through close examination of architectural case studies in Finland and internationally, the project seeks to shed light on modern architecture as a process, both in its construction, from exploratory sketches to execution on site, and its subsequent experience and interpretations by multiple actors and stakeholders over time.

alvar Aalto research image

Alvar Aalto Moving Image 2

Alvar Aalto Moving Image 4

Unknown photographer, n.d. Behind the scenes: Alvar Aalto filming for TV. Copyright: Alvar Aalto Museum

Alvar Aalto Moving Image 3

Unknown photographer, c. 1920. The film projector in Alvar and Aino Aalto’s home. Copyright: Alvar Aalto Museum