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900: a truly sustainable drinks trolley

| Designbest editorial staff

9

00 is just a number like any other, however it means a great deal more than that to design buffs all over the world. In fact, 900 is the iconic drinks trolley, designed in 1937 by Alvar Aalto, the renowned Finnish architect and designer. This truly ground-breaking piece was originally designed for the dining room at Villa Mairea, home of the Finnish entrepreneur Harry Gullichsen. What's more, 900 has also made history for being one of the first sustainable products ever to be made. 900 is in birch, ceramic and cane: structural frame in birch, plywood wheels, handmade basket in wicker and ceramic top available in either white or black.  

Even if 900 was made under commission, it was still presented to the general public during the 1937 Paris International Exhibition. 900 was an immediate hit and it soon started being mass produced by Artek, an interior design firm set up in 1935 by Alvar Aalto, his wife Aino Marsio, Marie Gullichsen, wife of Harry Gullichsen and Nils-Gustav Hahlin.

Simple, minimalist, sustainable and inspired by traditional north European style: this is why 900 represents a real turning point in international design. In fact, Alvar Aalto, real name Hugo Alvar Henrik Aalto and wife Aino Marsio, with whom he designed the vast majority of his work, were able to bring forward a truly innovative concept: the intrinsic relation which architecture and design have with their surrounding environment and natural landscape. This is the so-called genius loci, which is so distinct in Aalto: “One always has to research matters and take into account opposites... Almost all design projects include ten, often one hundred, sometimes even a thousand different factors and contradictory opinions, gathered by human will in a functional harmony. This harmony can only be achieved with tools coming from the arts”.

Aalto takes his rightful place in the history of international design; thanks to an original design philosophy coupled with great innovation. In fact, it's not just a coincidence that during the twenties, Aalto and his wife were the first architects to bring rationalism to Finland, already so popular in central Europe. And in a blink of an eye, Aalto became a hit with many Finnish industrialists, who commissioned him factories, villas, villages and even bespoke furniture, just like 900.

This incredible success, brought Alvar Aalto to design and build many large-scale projects: pavilions for exhibitions in New York and Paris and also several iconic buildings in Finland. Aalto is a real genius, even if unappreciated at times; a fate befallen to most great creative talents. Alvar Aalto spent most of his career trying to be recognised as the “prophet of Finish culture”. However, even if he didn’t fully accomplish this intent, he will always be remembered as a true icon. In fact, he is one of the few architects in the world who has had his portrait engraved on a coin. 

 

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