Sunday, February 11, 2018

Aalto in Jyväskylä - Update 3

The Main Building of the University of Jyväskylä (1954-56)

After touring Europe for so many Aalto sites last summer it is once again time to provide some updates on some of the buildings here in Jyväskylä. Today, I would like to write about a very special Aalto building here in Jyväskylä that has undergone an extensive renovation and is now shining again in its original state. The building in question is the Main Building of the University of Jyväskylä, often refereed to C-building. Just recently I learned the meaning behind the C and was surprised that C stands for Capitolium. Using this building for so many years during my studies here at the University of Jyväskylä and now after years of renovation for festivities that are held at the university, I never spend time on thinking about why this building is simply called C. Anyhow the name makes sense as the building is the administrative heart of the University of Jyväskylä as the rector's office is located here. Another good reason for the name is the large auditorium that seats over 700 people.

This building was erected in the mid-late 1950s as part of the master plan of the new university main campus that was designed by Alvar Aalto. After many years of use the building went under renovation in 2013. This was necessary to solve indoor air problems and to create new learning environments that serve better today's needs. Because the building is in the highest possible protection class the original structures, surfaces and furnishing were preserved carefully during the entire renovation. This is why it is not surprising that the renovation of the 9100 square meter building took more than 4 years and ended just in summer 2017.

Finally in September 2017 the building was again put back in use, however, not without celebrating the return of our university's most important building. Being a staff member of the University of Jyväskylä, I had the privilege to take a look behind the scenes at the day of the re-opening. Before having a closer look at the interior I would like to start with some impression of the exterior.

When passing through the main doors, that are facing towards the city centre of Jyväskylä, one enters first a large lobby that is mainly kept in white marble imported from Yugoslavia. The marble floor was entirely renewed during the renovation using now marble from Portugal. 

Another interesting feature of the great lobby are the large window fronts that provided a beautiful view towards the pine forest that is located next to the building. Also part of the lobby is a small cafeteria called Cafe Belvedere that serves student lunches and coffee in the afternoon.

Also in the lobby one can find a coat room which features the beautiful dark blue color and provides a charm of the 1950s. This color made it by the way also into the new branding of the University of Jyväskylä. In my opinion a timeless and elegant choice that Aalto made here.

Above the lobby is the large auditorium which I mentioned already earlier. Through three different staircases visitors can enter the auditorium in a very efficient way. 

The large auditorium is window-less, apart from the roof windows which are usually covered. It is kept in red brick with wooden floors and seats kept in the same blue that we saw already in the coat room. The seats in the upper section, however, feature black leather. Interesting to point out is also the lighting system. Finally, I also have to mention the great acoustics. On the night of the re-opening the university organized the opening celebrations of the academic year in this building to which all university staff members were invited. There was first a musical performance in the large auditorium and what amazed me about this was that the musicians did not had to use any microphones due to the outstanding acoustics reaching also the audience seated at the very end of the hall.

Returning to the grand lobby and passing the coat room one enters the section of the building that contains the administrative section of the building and the smaller lecture halls as well as through a long corridor the library. A staircase leads to the different rooms and the lobby is illuminated through roof top windows. Marble stairs lead the way to the upper floors.

On the second floor is the rector's office that could also be visited by university staff members during the re-opening day. 

The third floor features another large lecture hall that was designed by Aalto in a U shape with terraced rows of seats, inspired by the classical Greece. Typical of Aalto, the fittings and wooden details are all carefully planned.

Then, on the fourth floor different smaller lecture halls can be found that have originally been designed for clay and gypsum work as part of the teacher's education for which the building was originally designed for.

Also on the fourth floor is another lecture hall that is almost a bit hidden. I recall in 2011 when I was taking an Italian class having really a hard time to find this hall. I remember that it was in 2011 because it was a unique date when this class took place, as it was the 11.11.11 and I was just looking at my clock soon before the lecture was going to end and it was exactly 11:11:11 at that moment. 

Finally, I would like to turn the attention to the earlier mentioned library that is also part of the building. Through a narrow corridor system, that also connects the C with the X-Building that I have already presented in this blog earlier, the library can be reached. Before the new main library of the University of Jyväskylä was built in the mid-1970s by Arto Sipinen this library functioned as the main library of the university.

Today, the library has lost its function and has been turned into a computer lab for students. I have spent some significant in this hall when I started working on my Master's Thesis in 2011.

During the renovations some of the walls that separated the library from the upper floor have been removed in order to bring the building back into its original state. Now one can look down into the library from the upper floor and there is now more natural light passing into the library.

It was really nice to re-visit the main building of the university after such a long period of renovation and see how everything has been returned into its original state. Among all the Aalto buildings that can be found in Jyväskylä, the Capitolium certainly stands out as a great example of modern architecture and can be regarded as a one of the most significant works of Aalto's red brick phase.

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