Monthly Archives: January 2015

Helsinki Files 02: Aalto. Alvar Aalto.

If ever you are in downtown Helsinki, look left. Then look right. After doing so, it is incredibly likely you’ve seen an Alvar Aalto project.

Aalto 1_Stora Enso Head Offices_cover

The famed Finnish modernist has designed projects littered across the city. Each one is unique and varies in importance and presence, but all have a similar “Aalto-y” feel.

Aalto 1_Stora Enso Head Offices_Facade

This is the Stora Enso headquarters in Helsinki, and already you can see some very “Aalto-y” traits: A strong modernist grid, a level of civic presence appropriate for the buildings function, and white Carrara marble. 

Aalto 1_Stora Enso Head Offices_Facade Detail

An interesting thing about Helsinki (at least when I was there) is that all the lights are always on. I’ve never seen this building without its electric lights on.

Aalto 1_Stora Enso Head Offices_Street with tram

On the side of the building facing the Russian Orthodox Church you can find another very “Aalto-y” trait: Daylighting.

Aalto 1_Stora Enso Head Offices_Day Lighting Opportunity

These little pods allow daylight to spill through cones on the interior. Then, at night, exterior lights illuminate the same cones.

Aalto 1_Stora Enso Head Offices_Day lighting

Aalto is an example of an architect who believed in the “gesamtkunstwerk” or “total work of art”. What does that mean? Put plainly, it means Aalto designed EVERYTHING in every project.

Aalto 1_Stora Enso Head Offices_Handrail Detail

Door pulls, hand rails, elevator portals, luminaires, furniture, etc.

The man did it all. Most amazingly, in person, you can see how Aalto considers the human experience of his work. See how the above railing transitions from brass to wood where the user would grab it? It feels good and keeps your hands from stinking of metal. Beautiful and genius.

Aalto 1_Stora Enso Head Offices_Electric Lighting

The building also looks lovely from the Russian Orthodox Church.

Aalto 1_Stora Enso Head Offices_Russian Orthodox Church

I think the best part of this particular Aalto project is the way the regularized window grid glows warm in the dark, cold Helsinki winter.

Very “Aalto-y”.

Aalto 1_Stora Enso Head Offices_Night Angle

Many more Aalto projects to come!

Lets see if I can’t make my own studio project more “Aalto-y”.


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Helsinki Files 01: Miscellaneous

This is rushed, because I’m already being pulled a hundred different directions. But, it is too early in the term to quit regular blogging. So, in an act of rebellion, here is the first of many posts about my visit to Helsinki:

Helsinki_Misc_Helsinki Cover

We saw so many things in Helsinki (excluding the sun). So many of them fall into nice, neat blogging categories. This post is all about the things that don’t. 

To counter how Scandinavian the above image is, enjoy this image:

Helsinki_Misc_Helsinki Burgers

An overwhelming presence in the city is the Helsinki Cathedral. I know it is overwhelming based on the building’s siting. Also, the shear number of photographs I have taken leads me to believe the building is important…

Helsinki_Misc_Helsinki Cathedral 03

Helsinki_Misc_Helsinki Cathedral 02

Helsinki_Misc_Helsinki Cathedral 04

Helsinki_Misc_Helsinki Cathedral 01

The interior of this commanding presence is… rather underwhelming…

Helsinki_Misc_Helsinki Cathedral Interior

In almost complete opposition, the Russian Orthodox is pulled up and away from the city. It’s importance is recognizable, however it is not embraced by the urban fabric as the Helsinki Cathedral is.

Helsinki_Misc_Helsinki Russian Orthodox Church 03

Again, in opposition, this church’s interior is highly ornamented and intricate.

Helsinki_Misc_Helsinki Russian Orthodox Church 02

Helsinki_Misc_Helsinki Russian Orthodox Church 01

But, Helsinki is a lot more than gloomy skies and churches. The train station, by Eliel Saarinen, embraces the national romanticist movement.

Helsinki_Misc_Helsinki Train Station 01

It is very carefully detailed.

Helsinki_Misc_Helsinki Train Station 04

And is home to the nicest Burger King I’ve ever seen.

Helsinki_Misc_Helsinki Train Station 02

Helsinki_Misc_Helsinki Train Station 03

Other architecture of historical importance seems to embrace bears. Lots of bears. Bears everywhere.

Helsinki_Misc_Helsinki Traditional Detail

Also, fish. Fish everywhere.

Helsinki_Misc_Helsinki Fish

There are also many more examples of Modern and Contemporary architecture. This is the home field of famous modernist Alvar Aalto (we’ll get to that later, I promise!).

Helsinki_Misc_Helsinki Housing

Helsinki_Misc_Helsinki Contemporary Detail 2

Helsinki_Misc_Helsinki Mall

Helsinki_Misc_Helsinki Contemporary Detail

The University of Helsinki has also commissioned several new libraries. All of which are nice though some are much more impressive than others.

Helsinki_Misc_Helsinki University Library 1

Helsinki_Misc_Helsinki University Library 2

Of course, Kiasma is one of architect Steven Holl’s most famous projects. Of course, the one time I visit Helsinki it is closed for rennovation…

Helsinki_Misc_Helsinki Kiasma Detail

Though I am sour about not seeing Kiasma, a photograph of the building will prove that I did see the Scandinavian sun during my trip up north.

Helsinki_Misc_Helsinki Kiasma Sun

More to come!

Now for some homework! Hooray!


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The Beginning (of the most ridiculous trip ever)

Starting now, and likely continuing for the rest of the year, I will begin posting photos from my most recent travels. This is the beginning of the most ridiculous trip ever. You could say it was one of the greatest trips of my young adult life. You could say it was an adventure straight from hell. Either way, you’re right. 


Frankfurt Germany_Train Station

You have to understand, I took hundreds (maybe thousands) of photos on this trip. So I do not have the time nor the patience to describe everything I saw and got lost in throughout this European Monstrosity. I’ll only be posting the things I find most important/cool.

I’ll start with this German mall called Myzeil (I think…). It has a massive hole in it for some reason…

Frankfurt Germany_Myzeil_05

The exterior is quite unassuming. You might even walk right past this building without noticing this giant architectural move. However, if you go inside, you will surely be overwhelmed by curving glass and swooping floor plates. 

Frankfurt Germany_Myzeil_06

Frankfurt Germany_Myzeil_08

Obviously I thought this was cool…

Frankfurt Germany_Myzeil_03

Frankfurt Germany_Myzeil_02

Frankfurt Germany_Myzeil_01

Here comes a VERTICAL PANORAMA (mind blown? Sorry…):

Frankfurt Germany_Myzeil_07

Aside from a highly photogenic main space, the mall is detailed in a very interesting manner. Look at how the electric lights melt off of the ceiling plane like… like… cow udders or something…

Frankfurt Germany_Myzeil_04

WARNING: This next photo might make you dizzy. Do not operate heavy machinery while reading this portion of the blog.

Frankfurt Germany_Myzeil_09

^I’m not sure what it is about that photo, it just gives me a little vertigo.

You may now resume operating heavy machinery.

Aside from this mall, there is a museum district that is home to a Behnisch Architekten project.

Frankfurt Germany_behnisch architekten exterior

Side note: Hey guy who told me I had to pay admission to take photos inside the museum. What do you think of this photo?

Frankfurt Germany_behnisch architekten interior

HAH! Nice try telling me what to do! Who do you think you are? I do what I want!

The architecture museum was nothing special. The design museum, on the other hand, was well worth the admission.

Frankfurt Germany_design museum

There were also several art museums I did not have time to visit, but managed to snap this photo in passing:

Frankfurt Germany_Art

Aside from more contemporary architecture, there was the more stereotypical “German” scenery I had expected to see upon arrival. For example, these two pigs. I have no idea what the sign says, but they sure do look happy:

Frankfurt Germany_Happy Pigs

Like most cities, Frankfurt also boasted a Christmas Market. During the day it was nice and empty.

Frankfurt Germany_Christmas Market Day

At night, the very same space became jam-packed with people.

Frankfurt Germany_Christmas Market at Night

I had never been so close to so many strangers at once. Nor have I ever had so many strangers brush up against my butt (Perhaps searching for a wallet? Perhaps lonely pilgrims on the journey to love?) Either way, Frankfurt was a nice 24-hour pit-stop on this ridiculous voyage.

Stay tuned for more European Adventures.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to Skype with my German fiance. We met in the Christmas Market mosh pit.

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