Alvar Aalto was born in Alajärvi in central Finland and raised in Jyväskylä. Following the completion of his architectural studies at the Helsinki University of Technology he founded his own practice in 1923, based in Jyväskylä, and naming it Alvar Aalto, Architect and Monumental Artist. Although many of his early projects are characteristic examples of 'Nordic Classicism' the output of his practice would, following his marriage to fellow Architect Aino Marsio-Aalto (née Marsio), take on a Modernist aesthetic. From civic buildings to culture houses, university centers to churches, and one-off villas to student dormitories, the ten projects compiled here—spanning 1935 to 1978—celebrate the breadth of Aalto's œuvre.
Jyväskylä, a city whose status as the center of Finnish culture and academia during the nineteenth century earned it the nickname “the Athens of Finland,” awarded Alvar Aalto the contract to design a university campus worthy of the city’s cultural heritage in 1951. Built around the pre-existing facilities of Finland’s Athenaeum, the new university would be designed with great care to respect both its natural and institutional surroundings.
The city of Jyväskylä was by no means unfamiliar to Aalto; he had moved there as a young boy with his family in 1903 and returned to form his practice in the city after qualifying as an architect in Helsinki in 1923. He was well acquainted with Jyväskylä’s Teacher Seminary, which had been a bastion of the study of the Finnish language since 1863. Such an institution was eminently important in a country that had spent most of its history as part of either Sweden or Russia. As such, the teaching of Finnish was considered an integral part of the awakening of the fledgling country’s national identity.
In this article, which originally appeared in the Calvert Journal, Ksenia Litvinenko narrates the story of the K-2 Dacha – a governmental residence in St. Petersburg which sought to shrug off Russian Classicism and Soviet Modernism in favor of the principles of Finnish Modernism. Illustrated by photographs by Egor Rogalev and researched alongside Vladimir Frolov, this article examines a Modernist gem that you probably won't have heard of, or seen, before.
If you ever find yourself in St. Petersburg, take a taxi along the Pesochnaya embankment, far away from the polished attractions of the city centre. Sit back and watch the landscape changing on the other bank of the Malaya Nevka. Among the trees you will see the former dachas of Russian nobles, private residences of local officials and the buildings of the new elite, overlooking the river. This is the best and perhaps the only perspective from which to see the K-2 dacha.
Originally built as the headquarters for the Finnish Communist Party, the House of Culture (Kultuuritalo in Finnish) has since established itself as one of Helsinki’s most popular concert venues. Comprising a rectilinear copper office block, a curved brick auditorium, and a long canopy that binds them together, the House of Culture represents the pinnacle of Alvar Aalto’s work with red brick architecture in the 1950s.
Occupying the center of a small farming town in Finland, Säynätsalo’s Town Hall might appear almost too monumental for its context. Designed by Alvar Aalto in 1949, the town hall is a study in opposition: elements of classicism and the monumental blended with modernity and intimacy to form a cohesive new center-point for the community. These and other aspects of the design initially proved somewhat divisive, and the Town Hall has not been without controversy since its inception.
Paimio Sanatorium, an early major work by Alvar Aalto, is the subject of an exhibition on show in the Gallery at the Alvar Aalto Museum from 12 February to 10 April 2016. The exhibition is based on a conservation management plan prepared for the first time in Finland. The plan involves the most detailed investigation so far of the hospital, which was built for tuberculosis patients.
As one of the key figures of midcentury Modernism and perhaps Finland's most celebrated architect, Alvar Aalto (3 February 1898 – 11 May 1976) was known for his humanistic approach to Modernism. For his characteristically Finnish take on architecture, Aalto has become a key reference point for architecture in the Nordic countries, and his commitment to creating a total work of art left many examples of his design genius not only in buildings but also in their interior features, including furniture, lamps, and glassware design.
The Nordic nations—Finland, Norway and Sweden—have reached a pivotal point in their collective, and individual, architectural identities. The Grandfathers of the universal Nordic style—including the likes of Sverre Fehn, Peter Celsing, Gunnar Asplund, Sigurd Lewerentz, Alvar Aalto, and Eero Saarinen—provided a foundation upon which architects and designers since have both thrived on and been confined by. The Nordic Pavilion at the 2016 Venice Biennale—directed by Alejandro Aravena—will be the moment to probe: to discuss, argue, debate and challenge what Nordic architecture really is and, perhaps more importantly, what it could be in years to come.
We're asking for every practice (and individual) across the world who have built work in Finland, Norway and Sweden in the past eight years to submit their project(s) and be part of the largest survey of contemporary Nordic architecture ever compiled.
Update: the Open Call for In Therapy closed on the 24th January 2016.
'The Finnish rowhouse – from working-class housing to middle-class dream' exhibition is showing gems of this lifestyle familiar to all Finns, with the hand of Alvar Aalto and his architect contemporaries powerfully in evidence.
Based on extensive research by Professor Riitta Nikula, the exhibition tells the intriguing story of the rowhouse, uncovering the eventful history of rowhouse living from the 1900s to the 1960s. The exhibition uses drawings, photographs and films to present this high-quality everyday architecture.
Tommi Lindh, director of the Alvar Aalto Foundation, shares four exciting reasons to enjoy the architectural offerings of Finland this summer.
Architecture hasn't been this intensively represented in the Finnish summer events ever. The whole summer is full of nice places to visit, but what makes August so very special is what's happening in Helsinki and Jyväskylä in the beginning of the month. The Alvar Aalto Symposium kicks off with lectures by the Museum of Finnish Architecture in Helsinki on Wednesday, August 5 and continues to Jyväskylä where the main event starts on Friday, August 7 with the first thematic session and a keynote presentation by Liu Xiaodu of Urbanus.
The Alvar Aalto Symposium gathers together top names in contemporary architecture. This year’s international figures include American architect Greg Lynn, one of the Symposium’s keynote speakers. In line with the theme of the event – DO! – speakers will be rolling up their sleeves and personally opening up about what architects and urban planners really do. The symposium will be held on 7–9 August 2015 in Jyväskylä, Finland.
When Sheila O'Donnell and John Tuomey, who practice in partnership as O'Donnell + Tuomey, were named as this year's recipients of the RIBA Royal Gold Medal, a palpable collective satisfaction appeared to spread throughout the profession. No one could find criticism in Joseph Rykwert and Níall McLaughlin's nomination, nor the ultimate choice of the RIBA Honours Committee, to bestow the award upon the Irish team. Their astonishingly rigourous body of work, compiled and constructed over the last twenty five years, has an appeal which extends beyond Irish and British shores. A robust stock of cultural, community and educational projects, alongside family homes and social housing projects, leaves little doubt about the quality, depth and breadth of their mutual capabilities and the skill of those that they choose to collaborate with.
Read the conversation with the Gold Medallists after the break.
As one of the most ubiquitous forms of construction, it can sometimes be easy to overlook the humble brick. However, this prosaic building method can also be one of the most versatile materials available to architects, thanks to the experimentation of countless architects who, for centuries, have worked to create new forms of expression with the simple material. In this round up, we celebrate architects who, with their architectural classics, have expanded the possibilities of brick craft: Antoni Gaudí's fantastical vaulting at Colònia Güell and Alvar Aalto's experimental brick patterning at his house in Muuratsalo; the powerful brick piers of Kevin Roche and John Dinkeloo's Knights of Columbus Building and the Catalan vaults of Porro, Garatti and Gattardi's National Arts School of Cuba; and finally, what brick round up would be complete without the brick-whisperer himself - Louis Kahn and his all-brick fortress for the Indian Institute of Management.
The 2014 World Monuments Fund/Knoll Modernism Prize has been awarded to the Finnish Committee for the restoration of Alvar Aalto’s seminal Viipuri Library in Vyborg, Russia. “Designed by Aalto and constructed between 1927 and 1935 in what was then the Finnish city of Viipuri,” stated WMF in a press release, “the library reflects the emergence of Aalto’s distinctive combination of organic form and materials with the principles of clear functionalist expression that was to become the hallmark of his architecture.”
A quote from Barry Bergdoll and more images, after the break.
The Scandinavian countries have developed great buildings that resonate with both the scarce light in winter and the long summer days. Henry Plummer, Professor Emeritus at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, has very carefully studied the various daylight phenomena in the Nordic countries, with extensive photo journeys and brilliant writing that combines an analytical perspective with a poetic touch. His view of daylight looks beyond the practical advantages of using reflective white spaces to facilitate bright rooms; the passionate photographer is much more interested in the light effects that play with the local beauty of nature and touch the human soul.
Read on for more about how Nordic light enters white spaces
The Alvar Aalto Foundation has begun a collaborative project with Google to make Aalto buildings even more accessible to the public. Using Google’s revolutionary Street View navigation tool, along with its virtual Cultural Institute, the project offers a look inside some of Aalto’s most iconic works of architecture. Learn more about this initiative and see the virtual journey for yourself after the break.
If you don't have access to an architecture library (and even if you do), sifting through shelves can take hours. Buying books can be even more painful — for your wallet, at least. Instead, why not browse this list of 25 books that are all free and easily accessible online? Some are well-known classics of architecture literature, but we hope you find a few surprises as well.
Re-Creation is a two-part installation based on a concept by Anssi Lassila. One part of the installation was constructed by a Finnish master carpenter and his team, and the other by a Chinese team. Together the two parts of the installation strike up a subtle and complex dialogue between the architects and local builders.
Presented by the pavilion designed by Alvar Aalto in 1956, the installation "takes a stand on our relationship with the modern legacy and its tradition of international dialogue, and represents a quintessential product of topical international dialogue while at the same time offering its own unique interpretation of the dynamic between tradition and modernity." See images of the pavilion and enjoy a statement from the curators after the break.