Monday, July 16, 2012

Alvar Aalto in Denmark

My train to Aalborg
After my vacation in Iceland I continued my journey towards Denmark and I spend one week in Aarhus where I participated in a summer school organized by the local university. From Aarhus I took the train towards the north going to Denmarks fourth biggest city Aalborg. Aalborg is located in the region of North Jutland and is also the region's capital. In Aalborg stands the only building designed by Alvar Aalto in Denmark the North Jutland Art Museum "Kunsten".

Site No. 44: North Jutland Art Museum "Kunsten" in Aalborg / Denmark (1958-1972)

Kunsten is the only art museum designed by Alvar Aalto and it opened its doors to the public exactly 40 years ago in 1972. The museum is within a 15 minutes walking distance from the railwaystatition located in a small valley at a former gravel pit at Kong Christians Allé 50. Approaching it from the street as seen in the picture below the first impression was to be honest a bit disappointing to me. I recognized the building more or less because of the bus stop sign "Kunsten" otherwise I might had passed by without any notice.

Nevertheless my opinion changed rapidly once I got closer to the building. I was especially impressed how Aalto had used that "valley" to somehow separate the building from the loud and noisy street next to the museum. Especially the park next to the building which is separated with high walls from the street really helps to create a feeling of peace for mind.

Interesting is also the buildings pyramidal form which nicely counterbalances the steep slopes of the valley.

Interesting also the back yard of the building where Aalto put two small arenas for open air events.

Here are now a couple of more views from outside and also from the front before we are entering the building:


The real potential of this building anyhow becomes obvious when going inside to the art exhibitions. Being a master of using natural light in all his buildings in this museum Aalto exceed himself. The museum is famous for its beautiful natural light transmitted down onto the works of art via parabola-shaped skylight constructions. But also the layout of the museum is excellent as the design makes it easy and accessible to walk around in. A system of moveable walls makes it easy to alter the size and layout of  the space according to the particular requirements of individual exhibitions. 

Beside the exhibition the museum also has a shop, a nice foyer and a coffee in the basement as well as some offices which were not accessable.

To summarize my summer trip, I am happy that I had the chance to visit two different Aalto sites abroad within the same journey. Two buildings which couldn't be any more different from each other and still you can see in both of the buildings the clear handwriting of Alvar Aalto and also the diversity of his work. 

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Alvar Aalto in Iceland

Flag of Iceland
Finally I am back from a very exciting summer trip visiting three different countries in 20 days including also two new Alvar Aalto sites outside Finland, namely the Nordic House in Reykjavik / Iceland and the only art museum designed by Aalto in Aalborg / Denmark. The third country I visited was the U.S. but unfortunatelly I was not able to visit any of the two Aalto sites over there. But let me now first start with the Nordic House in Reykjavik.

Site No. 43: Nordic House, Library and Cultural Centre in Reykjavik / Iceland (1962-1968)

My flight to Iceland
Visiting Iceland has been a dream of mine for many years as Iceland is the country of volcanos, lava fields, glaciers, geysirs and many other natural phenomena. Getting there from Finland took about 3,5 hours by airplane and 3 hours of time change. While the rest of the country is very sparsely populated Reykjavik with its 200.000 inhabitants can be considered as the only bigger city in Iceland. Below are first some impressions of Iceland and Reykjavik in particular.

Esja mountains close to Reykjavik
Reykjavik from top
Typical inland view
Street in Reykjavik
The Blue Lagoon
Great architecture in the centre of Reykjavik

The Nordic House is a cultual institution with the goal to support the cultural connections between Iceland and the other Nordic Countries. The Nordic House hosts a library focusing on Nordic literature (I could find also a lot of Finnish books there), a restaurant that serves New Nordic food, a shop for Nordic design and exhibition spaces and auditoriums. The Nordic House organizes concerts, art exhibitions, seminars and theatres on a daily base. The building is located not far from the inner city centre of Reykjavik close to the University of Reykjavik. The address is Sturlugötu 5, it is open daily. More information and the event calender can be found also here:

Here are now first some views from outside. The marine blue roof with its wave form easily identifies the building as one of those one's desinged by Alvar Aalto and reminded me also a bit of the town hall of Seinäjoki which I visited last summer.

The Foyer of the Nordic House:

Pictures from the library which uses most of the space of the building. I like especially how smart the limited space was used to add more book shelfs into the library and how Aalto created those small private work spaces between the book shelfs.

The restaurant which offeres a nice view towards the city centre of Reykjavik and the small lake infront of the building as you can see on the third picture:

And finally I took a short look into the auditorium: