Aalto, Alvar, 1898-1976, Finnish architect and furniture designer. Aalto is considered one of the foremost architects of the 20th cent. Most of his designs were made in collaboration with his wife, Aino Marsio, the celebrated furniture designer, until her death in 1949. Aalto's work adapted Finnish building traditions to modern European techniques and to the specific function of the structure in boldly expressive style. His designs for the municipal library at Viipuri (1927-35; destroyed when it was made part of Russian territory in 1940) and the tuberculosis sanitarium at Paimio (1929-33) were outstanding functionalist works. He gained international fame by his remarkable designs for laminated-wood furniture and by his plans for the Finnish pavilions at the expositions in Paris (1937) and New York (1939). Appointed professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1940, he designed there the serpentine Baker House (1947-48). After World War II he was active in reconstruction in Finland. His major postwar works included a number of striking civic buildings in Helsinki, the Maison Carré in Paris (designed in collaboration with Elissa Makkinheimo, his second wife), and the Wolfsburg cultural center in Germany.

See his complete works, ed. by K. Fleig (tr. of 3d ed., 2 vol., 1970-71); studies by F. A. Gutheim (1960) and P. D. Pearson (1978).

This article is about the landform. For the Tamil saints, see Alvars; for the village in Armenia, see Alvar, Armenia.

An alvar or pavement barren is a biological environment based on a limestone plain with thin or no soil and, as a result, sparse vegetation. In the United Kingdom this landform is called a limestone pavement. This challenging habitat supports a community of rare plants and animals, including species more commonly found on prairie grasslands. Lichen and mosses are common species. Trees and bushes are absent or severely stunted. Alvars can be found in southern Sweden, northwest Estonia and around the Great Lakes in Michigan, New York and Ohio in the United States and in Ontario and Quebec in Canada. Alvars comprise a small percentage of the Earth's ecosystems by land extent; although, some 120 exist in the Great Lakes region, they comprise only 0.2% of the land area there.

In North America, alvars provide habitat for birds such as Bobolinks, Eastern Meadowlarks, Upland Sandpipers, Eastern Towhees, Brown Thrashers and Loggerhead Shrikes whose habitat is declining elsewhere. Rare plants include northern bog violet, balsam squaw-weed, Kalm's lobelia, Pringle's aster, Juniper sedge (Carex juniperorum), Lakeside daisy (Hymenoxys acaulis), Ram's-head Lady's-slipper (Cypripedium arietinum) and Dwarf Lake Iris (Iris lacustris). Also associated with alvars are rare butterflies and snails.

The use of the word "alvar" to refer to this type of environment originated in Scandinavia. The largest alvar in Europe is located on the Swedish island of Öland. Here the thin soil mantle is only .5 to 2.0 centimeters thick in most places and in many extents consists of exposed limestone slabs. The landscape there has been designated a UNESCO World heritage site.

European alvar locations

North American alvar locations

See also


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