ALVAR AALTO in HELSINKI

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1 ALVAR AALTO in HELSINKI This report highlights a study trip to Helsinki to visit key buildings designed by Alvar Aalto in order to discover and analyse his ability to create spaces which appeal not only to the human frame, but also to mind and spirit. Helsinki was voted Design Capital of 2010, so I was given the chance to explore the culture of a city set between the mountains, lakes and sea of the Finnish landscape which has built a reputation for creativity. Key buildings the writer visited by Alvar Aalto include: Aalto House and Studio and Finlandia Hall. Other buildings include: Uspenski Cathedral, Helsinki Cathedral and The Rock Church. Fig. 2 and 3 - Helsinki Olympic stadium I stayed in the Stadion Hostel which located inside the Helsinki Olympic Stadium. The stadium echoed tradional Finnish architecture with its broken roof line and timber cladding. Upon the first day of arrival in the city centre the rain poured on the cobbled streets as everyone found cover under the shelter of the granite or sandstone buildings.transport around Helsinki is quick and convenient with the tram and bus service meeting in the central transport interchange. Fig.4 - Helsinki town centre in the rain Fig.5 - Water feature in the boulevard which is used as a bathing pool by the students after graduation Fig.1 - Map shows Helsinki town centre shows the grid street pattern. The transport interchange is in blue.

2 Uspenski Cathedral Uspenski Orthadox Cathedral (1868) is a marvelous piece of Byzantine and Russian architecture. Elevated above Helsinki habour, the cathedral is approached by climbing stairs. Upon entry, I was totally overwhelmed and uplifted. The space is compact and with a verticle form which is created by the gigantic columns and central onion dome (Fig Fig.8 - Uspenski Cathedral main entrance Fig.9 - Interior of cathedral shows massive columns and central dome Fig.6 - Sketch studies of the Uspenski Cathedral analysing scale and plan The Rock Church I was lucky enough to see a classical concert at a comtemporary church found buried beneath large rocks in Helsinki. The radial concrete beams shooting out of the earth into the sky created a very spiritual experience. Helsinki Cathedral Helsinki Cathedral is the dominant feature of Senate Square. The significance of the public space surrounding the Cathedral is not given justice by the interior environment of the Cathedral itself. The centralised plan has a constricting horizontal scale and the internal columns are painted in gloss white. Fig.7 - Interior of cathedral shows massive columns and central dome Fig.10 - Interior of cathedral shows massive columns and central dome

3 Aalto House Alvar Aalto designed and built his own house during a phase in his career when he was experimenting with the effects of materiality. Moving through the plan there is a subtle change in public to private spaces and each room has a particular ambience catering for its function. This is achieved through controlling natural light and a contrast between smooth and rough, high and low. The warm timber and brick colours of the interior complement the light and airy space (see Fig.11). Aalto and his wife designed functional furniture to fit in this house, such as transparent drawers in the bedroom and drawers in the kitchen which also upon into the dining area. Fig.12/13 show the building is totally integrated with its context. Aalto has designed this building with the landscape in mind as much as the function, and the human experience. Fig.11 - Landing of Aalto House shows brick fireplace and timber railings seperating space Fig.12 - Aalto House view from garden Fig.13 - The house completely fuses with the landscape providing a livable space around the building

4 Aalto Studio Fig. 14 shows the Aalto Studio sits comfortably within the gradient of the street with the roof line following the slope. The entrance is sunken below street level and the transition of spaces once inside is truly delightful and easy to read. Up the stairs into the linear studio lit by eastern clerestories (see Fig.17), and the space opens up. The Aalto Studio has a room for meetings and plenty of storage space for drawings and models. There is also a room with a curved wall which looks out onto the private ampitheartre shown in Fig.15/16. Fig.14 - Aalto Studio s roof line follows the slope of the street Fig.15 - The creative space with balcony for looking down on drawings from above. The space looks out onto a private ampitheartre Fig.16 - Sketch study of the expressive stairs and balcony in the studio Fig.17 - Sketch study of the main working studio with clerestorys and exposed beams

5 Finlandia Hall One early morning I visited the Finlandia Hall designed by Alvar Aalto. The entrance is dominated by a large staircase which brings you out into an open foyer. Here is a quote by a lecturer after I returned from Helsinki: This project reminds me of the way Alvar Aalto created drama by bringing people up a processional staircase to a wide open space, but I can t remember the name of the building This shows that although the names of the buildings are not remembered, Aalto s creative use of architectural principles inspires the imagination. The form of the hall is suited to its context overlooking a lake. Inside, I listened to the Helsinki Orchestra warming up for a show in a very civilised yet expressive concert hall. Fig.18 - Finlandia Hall entrance is lower than the street level Fig.19 - The interior is large and open and natural light penetrates the voids to create a dramatic atmosphere Fig.20 - Sketch study of the Finlandia Hall showing context and street lamps designed by Aalto

6 Conclusion Helsinki is a magical place which is due to the blend of National Romantic and Rationalist architecture. Spaces which are more than just services to the human frame, can be created by building in context and using the imagination as a tool. Aalto s exploration of materials and layering of spaces evident in all his work in Helsinki, particularly the Aalto House, produce an ambience for living in. The study trip has inspired me to design within context and briniging out the quality of each material. Fig.22/23 shows a desk I designed and consstructed out of pallets which was influenced by the study trip. Fig.21 - Photo of the Sibilius Monument, a stutue of organ chimes dedicated to a famous Finnish classical composer Fig.23 - Photo of my completed desk showing the direct influence of Alvar Aalto in my work Report writer: Phillip James Wing Fig.22 - Sketch studies exploring the inherent qualities of a timber pallet during the design of my studio desk after the study trip Course: 3rd year Bsc Architecture University: Anglia Ruskin University Date: Oct 2010

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