Sunday, October 1, 2017

European Aalto Summer Tour - Part 1

Hi there,

I hope your summers have been as great as mine! The colorful autumn has now arrived to the Aalto city of Jyväskylä and it is once again time to sit down and recapture the past summer. A lot has happened then. As already announced in April I had plans to tour all the remaining Aalto sites in North, Central and Southern Europe, 10 sites altogether. It was a long but rewarding trip and I am happy to now share all these new sites with you in the upcoming posts.

Bus to Turku
The journey began in Jyväskylä on July 18 by bus. Leaving the town the bus passend several of the great Aalto sites on its way such as the Administrative and Cultural Center of Jyväskylä, the Defense Corps Building and the Central Finland Museum, both currently under renovation, the Alvar Aalto Museum and of course the University of Jyväskylä main campus. Further it passed the Church in Muuramme and some of the Tampella Housing Area in Tampere could be seen from the bus window. About 4 hours later Turku was reached and as I still had plenty of time before catching my ferry to Stockholm I spent some time also re-visiting some of the Aalto sites such as the Office Building for Turun Sanomat Newspaper and the Agricultural Cooperative Building in which I once spent a night some years ago.

After enjoying a beautiful and warm summer day in Turku it was about time to leave Finland behind and get on the night-ferry to Stockholm. The crossing was very pleasant and I arrived early next morning in Sweden.

Departing Turku by ferry

After a short walk I reached the Stockholm metro also called Tunnelbana which took me to the Stockholm Central. From there I was able to catch the early morning train to Uppsala. The journey to Uppsala took about 40 minutes. This was also the first trip with my 15 days in 1 month Interrail Global Flexi-Pass.

Inter City train to Uppsala
The city centre of Uppsala was only a stone throw away from the central station. I discovered a bit the beautiful old town and the impressive Uppsala Cathedral which is the largest church in the Nordic Countries.

Site No. 62: Västmanlands-Dala Student Union Building in Uppsala / Sweden (1961-65)

Only two blocks away from the impressive cathedral located in St. Larsgatan 13 is the Västmanlands-Dala Student Union Building designed by Alvar Aalto, which was the actual main reason I visited Uppsala. The impressive two towers of the church are still very visible at the Aalto site. The Aalto building is located at the end of the street and therefore three sides are visible. While the backside looks first a bit unspectacular and might only be identified as Aalto's work by its white color, the front is very impressive as its windows and inside visible staircases remind the visitor immediately of the Finlandia Hall in Helsinki which dates back to the same time. Outstanding are also the two cross-braces, visible on both the front and back site of the building, that look a bit like stabilizers of a ship.

At the main entrance there is also some information about the architect Alvar Aalto who was commissioned for designing this building in Swedish and Finnish.

On the ground floor several jobs can be found as well as a restaurant.

Train to Avesta
After lunch I left Uppsala and took the train further North. After passing for about one hour through beautiful Swedish farm lands the train reached Avesta in Dalarna County. As trains do not anymore stop in Avesta Central station I had to disembark at Avesta Krylbo station which is about 4 km south from downtown Avesta. Fortunately, there are frequent bus connections to Avesta operated by Dalatrafik. I took line 31 that runs directly from Krylbo station to the central bus station in Avesta, the trip takes about 12-15 minutes. I got off the bus right at my next Aalto destination at the stop called Myntgatan.

Site No. 63: Sundh Centre Commercial Residential Building in Avesta / Sweden (1957-61)

The Sundh Centre locally also known as the "Aalto Huset" or Aalto House dominates the small city centre of Avesta although not located in the very centre of the town. Especially its tallest building can be seen from all over the city centre. Interesting about the Sundh Centre is that the entire building is coated with dark blue tiles, something Aalto rarely did anywhere else. The only building I can recall is the Town Hall of Seinäjoki. Depending on the light and the angle of the viewer it seems as the building is changing its color.

Besides residential apartments the building complex features also several shops and a Chinese restaurant.

This building is certainly a hidden treasure of Aalto's work and despite its remote location a must for Aalto fans to visit.

Inter City train to Stockholm
After discovering the small town of Avesta, I took again the bus 31 back to the Kyrlbo station from where I could catch a direct Inter City train to Stockholm Central. After a bit less than two hours on the train I reached again the Swedish capital about 10 hours after I departed from there in the morning. Due to their close proximity one can easily visit both Alvar Aalto sites in Sweden during a one day trip from Stockholm by train, not only enjoying the beautiful Swedish country side but also some real hidden treasures of Alvar Aalto's work.

After I spent a great evening in Stockholm I got on the night train to Malmö heading finally south.

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