Monday, August 3, 2015

Alvar Aalto in New York

Site No. 56: Edgar J. Kaufmann Conference Room in New York / USA (1964)
Getting there by train

It has almost been a year since I have visited an Alvar Aalto site but finally I am back with more! Today I am very excited to present the first Alvar Aalto site outside Europe, the Edgar J. Kaufmann Conference Room located in New York City. This conference room is different from other Aalto sites that I have presented in this blog because Alvar Aalto had only designed a room and not the entire building. The Edgar J. Kaufmann Conference Room is located on 809 United Nations Plaza at the Institute of International Education (IIE) headquarters. The IIE headquarters is just across the street from the United Nation's headquarters. The conference room is used by IIE to host various events but the room is normally not accessible for the general public. Just by coincidence I happened to be a Fulbright grantee, a U.S. exchange program administrated by the IIE, through which I was able to establish contact with the IIE headquarters in New York and arrange this special visit. At this point I would like to thank the Fulbright program and IIE for giving me the chance to visit this facility.

The conference room was commissioned by Edgar Kaufmann Jr. in 1964. At the walls and ceilings typical elements of Aalto's design can be found. The most remarkable is probably the wall in the rear part of the room that has wooden elements that reminded me immediately about a forest. Also furniture and lamps are designed by Alvar Aalto. The textiles were designed by Aalto's late wife Elissa Aalto. Another interesting detail can be found in the lobby where Aalto used the typical dark blue tiles that can be found in many Alvar Aalto buildings around the world. 

Even though Alvar Aalto designed only this one room it was still interesting to find parts of his work in this vibrate and diverse metropolis that architecturally has so much to offer. It felt great to look at Aalto's work and then turn the head and look out the window and to see the East River and the UN building and realizing that Aalto's vision and work had even made it all the way across the Atlantic. I am already looking forward to discover the two remaining Alvar Aalto sites in the United States that are located along the route of this trip. For more information on my trip please have also a look at my other blog in which I am sharing stories and pictures of my 45 day USA rail trip