Saturday, August 6, 2011

Aalto's Experimental House

Site No. 36: Muuratsalo Experimental House (1952-54)

Entrance ticket
Aalto's Experitmental House can be found around 20 kilometre south from Jyväskylä in Muuratsalo. Alvar and his wife Elissa Aalto had their summer home built on the island of Muuratsalo in the early 1950s. Also nowadays Aalto's offsprings are using the site to spend their summer vacation. Anyhow three times a week during the summer the site is open also for visitors but the area can only be entered with a guide and visits have to be arranged beforehand through the Alvar Aalto Museum in Jyväskylä. On a nice summer day about a week ago I decided to make a bicycle tour towards Muuratsalo. Before I left Jyväskylä I had to register for the guided tour at the Aalto Museum. After my place was confirmed I left for the 20 kilometre ride which took me about an hour and a half. Just at the right time at 1.30 pm I arrived at the gate of the estate where the Experimental House is located. The guided tour took about 45 minutes and the guide showed us first the boat designed by Alvar Aalto in the 1950s which was unfortunatelly not in such a good shape. The boats name is "Nemo propheta in patria" and was a revolutinary design the time it was build. The boat is stored in a special hangar designed by two young Norwegian architects to protect it from further destruction as displayed in the pictures below.

Next the guide showed us the smoke sauna which was also designed by Aalto. Commonly saunas in Finland are four-sided little buildings but this sauna is different as it has five corners. The sauna is still used by the Aalto family and sometimes exclusively also by executives from Jyväskylä.On the top of the building trees are growing, this was intended by Aalto so that the building does better fit into its environment.

Finally we arrived at the Experimental House which is surrounded by trees such as the entire estate is covered by forest and very nicely located by the lake. Thus this was the summer home of Aalto to rest during the summer in this house he carried out experiments and try out new methods of construction as displayed in the pictures below.

A lot of  ideas have been realized in various buildings and it is truely interesting to see this kind of "playground" where Aalto experimented with new ideas and had first a look how this and that would harmonize before building it in a large scale. Visiting this experimental house is a real must for any Alvar Aalto fan. Also the inside of the building was viewable and most of the interior was still like in the 1950s when Aalto spend his summers there. It is needless to mention that also the interior and all the furniture were designed by the owner himself.

Aalto in Säynätsalo

Site No. 35: Säynätsalo Town Hall (1949-52)

The Säynätsalo Town Hall is another very nice example of a town hall designed by Alvar Aalto but this time in red brick style. I visited this side during this summer twice but the first time I could not enter the building as it was a Saturday and the building is commonly only open during the office hours on working days. So I had to come a second time to see also the inside of the building. Hereby I also had the chance to visit the libary (a branch of the Jyväskylä city libary) which is also included in the building together with some business premises. A speciality of this building is the courtyard in the middle of the building which gives the building together with its tower the character of a modern castle. During the opening hours all the meeting rooms including the large council chamber could be visited. Säynätsalo is located on a island approximatelly 15 kilometres south from Jyväskylä and both times I decided to use the bicycle to get there.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Aalto Summer Trip Part II

Night train to Rovaniemi
After a first great day visiting 13 Alvar Aalto sites in Seinäjoki and Alajärvi it was time to continue my trip towards my third Aalto destination Rovaniemi. The so called gate to Lappland is loacted slighly south from the polar circle, the night train depaturing Seinäjoki at 12.17 am needed seven and a half hours to bring me there while the distance was about 550 kilometres. The arrival in Rovaniemi next morning was at 7.48 am. After a short breakfast I walked from the railwaystation to the city centre and was welcomed by the impressive roof top of the Lappia Hall which is part of the Administrative and Cultural Centre of Rovaniemi designed by Alvar Aalto in the 1960s.

Site No. 31: Lappia Hall Rovaniemi (1969-76)

The Lappia Hall houses a theatre, a concert hall and a conference centre and is part of the Administrative and Cultural Centre of Rovaniemi located in Jorma Eton tie 8. What makes the design of the building architecturally so unique is the fell-shaped silhouette of the roof based on Aalto's idea of smoothing the shapes of buildings to adjust them into the surrounding landscape. Unfortunatelly the theatre was closed during the summer, the building could not be viewed from inside.

Site No. 32: Town Hall Rovaniemi (1963-88)

The town hall of Rovaniemi was build in the mid-1980s after Aalto's death but according to his original plans from the 1960s. The building has altogether 200 offices and 17 meeting rooms. According to Aalto's principles the basis of planning was man himself, the ones working in the building and visiting it. The lobby can be visited during the opening hours of the town hall.

Site No. 33: Libary Rovaniemi (1961-66)

The third building of the Administrative and Cultural Centre in Rovaniemi is the libary located between Lappia Hall and the town hall. The libary has the most significant collection of literature on Northern Europe. The fan-shaped roof, the special arrangement of the libary hall and the indirect illumination are typical elements of Aalto's architecture.

Site No. 34: Commercial and Residential Buildings (1958-63)

Beside the Administrative and Cultural Centre Aalto also planned some other buildings for the centre of Rovaniemi. Among those are three buildings located in Koskikatu 18 and 20 as well as in Jaakonkatu 3 mostly used as commerical and residential buildings. 

Koskikatu 18 and 20

A double house located at one of Rovaniemis main shopping streets housing several shops in the groud floor and appartments in the upper floors.

Jaakonkatu 3

Similar to the double house in Koskikatu and located basically just behind it is the building in Jaakonkatu 3.

My train back to the south in Rovaniemi
Finally after a 4 hours stay in Rovaniemi I had to get back to the station to catch the last day train back to Jyväskylä which left at 12.28 pm. With a slide delay I arrived back to Jyväskylä the same evening at 21.33 pm. Summarizing I must say this was a really great trip, I had the chance to discover 19 new Alvar Aalto buildings in three major Aalto cities here in Finland. Altoghether I have travelled around 1700 kilometres and spend about 23 hours in trains or busses. Beside Alvar Aalto's Architecture I have also met a lot of  interesting people and could discover new areas here in Finland where I haven't been before.