Sunday, October 30, 2016

6 years 60 sites 66 000 visitors

Hi there,

another year has passed and again a lot has happened on this blog. Today 6 years ago I started this project by formulating an ambitious goal of visiting all 80 Alvar Aalto sites around the world. Honestly by that time this goal seemed unreachable. However, today 6 years later I have visited 60 sites and the readership, which counted only a few hundred after the first year, has by now grown up to over 66 000! This blog attracts more than 2 000 readers every month. It is you guys who keep me motivated and going and I would sincerely thank you for that!

During the past 12 months I have visited two Alvar Aalto sites in Finland. One of Aalto's most famous work, Villa Mairea in Noormarkku and a much less known and almost forgotten site, the Yhteis-Sisu Corporation Housing in Hämeelinna. Plans to finally visit the Aalto Library in Vyborg couldn't unfortunately be realized this summer. Also the visit of Villa Kokkonen wasn't possible due to the very difficult opening hours of the site.

Also the seventh year will see new sites and there are already concrete plans existing to visit the Schönbühl Apartment House and Commercial Centre in Lucerne / Switzerland in December. I hope I will also be able to attend a guided tour of the Finlandia Hall in the upcoming year, in order to get to see more of the interior. Further I am planning to visit in Finland the Kainula Adult Education Institute in Kajaani and Villa Kokkonen in Järvenpää.

During the past months I have also been considering the idea to generate some earnings through this blog with adds. Nevertheless, I have dropped the idea as I would like to provide the content of this blog also in the future without any disturbing advertisements to you.

In this regard I hope you keep enjoying reading my blog. Stay tuned!

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Villa Mairea

Site No. 60: Villa Mairea in Noormarkku (1937-39)

Bus 66 to Noormarkku
Today I have the pleasure to introduce another masterpiece of Aalto's work, the famous Villa Mairea! Villa Mairea is a private house Alvar Aalto designed for his friends Harry and Maire Gullichsen. The villa was not only home to the industrialist's family but houses also the extensive art collection of Maire Gullichsen. Among her collection are works of Picasso and many other famous artists of the 20th century. Villa Mairea is located in Noormarkku, about 15 km out of Pori. Villa Mairea can be conveniently reached by several bus lines from Pori. I took bus 66 from the city bus station and the ride to Noormarkku took about 25 minutes. If you take line 66 then get off at the first stop once the bus has passed the town center of Noormarkku. After you got off the bus turn right and then take the first left. You will walk down a beautiful alley. After about 100 meters you will see a sign that this area is private and belongs to the Ahlströhm company. Passing the sign turn left again and walk up the little hill. You will soon see another impressive villa. This building was built by Maire's father. Pass through the back yard and keep going for another 30 meters. You will see Villa Mairea on the left. Important: You cannot access Villa Mairea or its grounds without an appointment. So before going there, please make an appointment or book any of the guided tours. This is due to the fact that the owner family is still spending time in the house. The guided tour gives you the opportunity to see the house inside and also to explore the garden by yourself after the tour.  Tours are offered in English and Finnish. Spots are limited so book in advance!

Villa Mairea is an experiment in modern lifestyle and architecture. The building is full of innovations and Alvar Aalto has been testing many new ideas that have later been utilized in standard housing buildings. However, more important Villa Mairea has also to be seen as a milestone in Aalto's work and his career. By designing Villa Mairea Alvar Aalto transitioned from main-stream modernism (influenced by the Bauhaus) away towards his own unique synthesis of the traditional and modern, organic and technological, structural and aesthetic, emotional and rational style.

The tour inside takes about 1 hour. Unfortunately the tour only covers the ground floor as the upper floor contains the private quarters of the family. The house is decided into two parts. Downstairs is the space for entertaining while upstairs is the living space of the owner family. Because of all the art works it is not allowed to take pictures inside the building. However, I will briefly describe the interior although this of course doesn't replace an actual visit which I can highly recommend. Followed by the large entrance lobby the visitor reaches the very large an open space of the living room which has large windows facing the garden as well as the pine tree forest. The living room has a huge fire place. Its interior is kept simple, it contains mainly a seating area with furniture designed by Aino Aalto, Alvar Aalto's first wife. Next to the living room is the music room that houses a special and rare grand piano build of aircraft materials and imported from Denmark in the 1950s. It also contains Maire's flowers. Next to the music room are two other rooms, the library and the winter garden. The library contains beautiful outfitting of Aalto's interior design while the winter garden shows interesting shapes that can also be found in Aalto's Savoy vase. Also on the ground floor is the dinning room. The dinning room appears very simple, measured by its furniture, but contains many interesting and smart details. Also on the ground floor is the kitchen and private quarters of the house keeper. These unfortunately were not accessible during the tour. As already mentioned earlier the house contains many works of famous artists, art one normally only finds in museums.

After the tour visitors have the chance to explore the garden by themselves. The garden contains a large swimming pool and a sauna as well as several nice seating areas. Interesting is also the fact that Aalto tried to connect the garden with the pine forest that starts right behind the house. He wanted a to give the impression that the garden is part of the forest and vise versa. While the house was designed very modern, Aalto wanted to contrast that modernism with a old style wooden sauna building. As there is no nearby lake or river Aalto created a large pool for the family to cool down and swim after taking the sauna.

Villa Mairea is a must visit if you are into Alvar Aalto's work and especially if you want to learn more about his transition from main-stream modernism towards his own style. This visit has definitely taught me a lot about Alvar Aalto's work and deepened my understanding what his own style is and what his work stand for.

Departing Pori

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Alvar Aalto in Hämeelinna

Site No. 59: Housing for Yhteis-Sisu Corporation in Hämeelinna (1956-58)

Almost a year has passed since I visited the last time a new Alvar Aalto site but finally I am back with more. I spent the past weekend in Hämeenlinna where one of my closest friends was celebrating his wedding. I have been visiting Hämeelinna numerous times before but never found the time to visit the housing area that was designed by Alvar Aalto for the workers of Yhteis-Sisu Corporation. As the site can only be reached by car, I was glad that I could borrow my friend's car and drive to the suburb of Hongisto some 5 kilometers from the city centre of Hämeelinna. If you want to drive there from Hämeelinna take the E12 highway towards Helsinki until the intersection with street 10. Head east on street 10 until you reach a traffic circle and take then the first turn onto street 290. Again take the first turn right which comes after 500 meters. Don't drive into the factory yard but instead turn right and then left again. Just go on for about 50 meters and you reach the destination.

The site in question is a set of three row houses that were build in the late 1950s. The houses seem not to be occupied anymore as they appeared empty to me. Also the condition of the buildings wasn't anymore that great. Some doors were even left open.

Nevertheless a few interesting wooden elements let one imagine that these houses were not just designed by some ordinary architect but by Alvar Aalto. Nevertheless, typical Aalto elements couldn't be detected. It was a pity to find these houses in such a bad shape.