Among the first architects of Nordic Modernism; also a designer, sculptor, and painter. He was known for being focused on design as a total work of art or Gesamtkunstwerk.
He studied architecture at the Helsinki University of Technology beginning in 1916, but he left to fight in the Finnish War of Liberation alongside the White Army. He then returned to the University and graduated in 1921.
His buildings included Germany's Essen Opera House and New York City's Institute of International Education.
His father, Johan Henrik Aalto, worked as a land surveyor, while his mother, Selma Matilda (née Hackstedt), was a postmistress. His first structure was a house for his parents. He married twice, first in 1925 to Aino Marsio; after Aino's death from cancer in 1949, he married Elissa Mäkiniemi in 1952. Both of his wives were also famed architects. He had a daughter named Johanna and a son named Hamilkar.
His stylistic approach to the Bauhaus school of design in Dessau was compared to Walter Gropius.