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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