The Shaman’s Haven of the Kalevala

© Travis Price

Led by American architect and professor, Travis Price, FAIA, the Kalevalakehto / Shaman’s Haven of the Kalevala project was the result of an international exchange among Finnish and American students of architecture, from the Catholic University of America in Washington, and Aalto University in Helsinki. It was designed during a 9-day intensive charette held at the Embassy of in Washington, DC in January 2010, and constructed in Helsinki by the students over 9 days in late August 2010. The design of the installation is inspired by the themes of the Finnish epic Kalevala: the myth of the 7 eggs of the world’s creation, the mysteries of the Sampo as a metaphor for creativity and innovation, and the shape-shifting shamanic character of Väinämöinen, the main character of the Kalevala. Located on Seurasaari, an island near the city center which serves as a nature reserve, and open-air museum of historic architecture, the installation will function as a “think tank,” a meeting place for reflection and creative dialogue.

© Travis Price

The materials for the project echo the poetic metaphors for the design, and are comprised of Finnish wood, stainless steel, and glass, donated by Finnish building material suppliers. Outokumpu contributed the highly polished stainless steel for the roof, ceiling, and structural columns. Kuhmo Wood contributed the wood for the curved walls; sustainably harvested from forests in northeastern Finland, where the Kalevala poems originated. Woodpolis, a public-private venture to develop new wood technologies and training, provided the prefabrication of wood components. Fenestra donated the glass for the windows, walls, and doors. The project was also supported by the City of Helsinki’s Economic Development and Public Works departments, and the Finnish Cultural Foundation among others.

© Travis Price
© Travis Price

The project is the latest chapter in a design-build expedition program known as Spirit of Place/Spirit of Design (SPSD), which for 15 years has led architecture students to create meaningful monuments that echo and celebrate cultural lyrics of a place by means of modern design. The program, founded by Price at The Catholic University of America in Washington, DC, has so far designed and built projects around the world from the mountains of Machu Picchu to the rugged west coast of Ireland and to the sacred sites of Nepal.

© Travis Price

The goal of the Spirit of Place/Spirit of Design program is to explore the design and construction of architectural forms that successfully respond to natural and cultural settings in a contemporary language of design. Environmental stewardship and cultural heritage preservation in distant landscapes guides the methodology of research and design. The program’s overriding objective is to foster a method for design education that engages the most deeply resonant qualities of culture and the specificity of place. The program was the recipient of a 2010 NCARB Prize for Creative Integration of Design and Practice in the Academy.

View this project in Google Maps

* Location to be used only as a reference. It could indicate city/country but not exact address.
Cite: "The Shaman’s Haven of the Kalevala" 25 Sep 2010. ArchDaily. Accessed 02 Oct 2014. <http://www.archdaily.com/?p=78880>
  • MarkM

    I liked it better the first time, you know, when Zumthor did it.

  • http://www.individual.cl/ æon

    goes nice with the landscape

  • Dustin

    I agree, MarkM. It seems strange that a project that looks eerily similar to St. Benedict’s Chapel makes no mention of it. It can’t be just a coincidence.

  • Nina

    I worked on this project. And yes, it is a coincidence. It was derived from several conceptual models. We didn’t look at any precedents.

  • mintleaf

    You’d be hard pressed to find any architecture, art, film, music, etc. that hasn’t intuitively been thought of at some point in time.

    Curved walls and a clerestory are not exclusive to Zumthor’s work.

    I think this is a bad-ass project. Kudos.

  • mintleaf

    You’d be hard pressed to find any architecture, art, film, music, etc. that hasn’t been thought of before at some point.

    Curved walls and a clerestory are not exclusive to Zumthor.

    I think this project is very cool. Kudos.

  • joe

    MarkM way to minimize the work of a group of people, with a short sighted statement. bravo

  • gerson

    Between legend and digital world’ I could not find the shamans place in the bright light of the binaric materials and place.
    Aesthetic-yes in the right place-possible but too cold and clean and by those far from the legend fragments
    And MarkM said it all
    gerson

  • luciana

    Amazing how the ceiling brings to it this brilliant “liquid” surface, and the reflections of the outside gets you involved in such a deep complexity of colors and shapes.
    Stunning…love it.

  • jed_

    i totally understand that it’s a very rare thing that is truly original but this is a pretty straight rip off of zumthor’s building, there’s no denying it.

    “We didn’t look at any precedents.”

    well everyone involved in architecture knows zumthor’s St. Benedict Chapel. it’s not a case of not seeking precendents.

  • Amy

    Zumthor’s chapel was derived from an aspen leaf, and this project was based off of an egg.

    Albeit similar in shape… the concepts appear to be quite different. I guess it’s true, great minds think alike.

    Sounds like someone is a jealous that their work isn’t featured on Arch Daily… but that’s just me.

    Clearly if this wasn’t a worthy project, it wouldn’t be featured on this site.

    Kudos to the Catholic University + Aalto University students who worked hard to design and build this project.

  • Amy

    Zumthor’s chapel was derived from an aspen leaf, and this project was based off of an egg.

    Albeit similar in shape… the concepts appear to be quite different. I guess the saying is true: great minds do think alike.

    Sounds like someone is a tad jealous that their work isn’t featured on Arch Daily… but that’s just me.

    Clearly if this wasn’t a worthy project, it wouldn’t be featured on this site.

    Kudos to the Catholic University + Aalto University students who worked hard to design and build this project.

  • rob

    never seen a pointed egg, just pointed aspen leaves

  • hmm

    they spent 274,000$ for the project! How?