Tag Archives: modern architecture

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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A Search for the Texas Vernacular: Episode 16

Fort Worth, Texas: The Kimbell Art Museum (Addition)

Kimbell Art Museum Addition_Glulam detail 3

The original Kimbell Art Museum is a tough act to follow.

It was designed by a world renowned architect and is consistently praised as a victory for modern architecture. The quality of day-light the building provides  is legendary and has helped this specific Louis Kahn project find a place in most every architectural history course.

I cannot imagine any project that could sit adjacent to the original Kimbell Art Museum and receive a parallel amount of respect and praise in the architectural community. With that said, I think the Kimbell Art Museum addition by Renzo Piano is a respectful and delicately crafted addition to the campus that is worth a visit.

Kimbell Art Museum Addition_Exterior 1

It is, like its predecessor and neighbor, a sort of  faceless building. The building is present, but by no means screams for attention or detracts/competes with the art it houses.

Kimbell Art Museum Addition_Glulam Detail 2

Massive glulam beams rest lightly on concrete columns. If buildings could be in gangs that required a certain material palette for admission, this neighborhood architecture gang would certainly be known for concrete (See A Search for the Texas Vernacular: Episode 3, Episode 4, and Episode 14).

Kimbell Art Museum Addition_Glulam Detail 1

This building, like its neighbor, uses a day-lighting strategy I’ve heard described as “Structural Light”, a name I think fits incredibly well.

Kimbell Art Museum Addition_Main Volume

Between each of the glulam beams, diffused light enters the building and illuminates everything evenly.

Kimbell Art Museum Addition_Gallery 2

The beams are lined with track lighting for nighttime illumination.

Kimbell Art Museum Addition_Gallery 1

This portion of the museum links to a sort-of subterranean chunk via a glass stitch lined with outdoor seating.

Kimbell Art Museum Addition_Courtyard

The roof of this “Subterranean Chunk” is a habitable, grass covered roof.

I first thought the grass roof was pointless since it seemed it would constantly be uninhabited due to the Texas heat. I was quickly proven wrong when I stepped in dog poop, which by deductive reasoning signified that it is in fact inhabited at times (though my “Sherlock Holmes” type investigation leads me to believe that this roof is used as a dog toilet…).

Kimbell Art Museum Addition_Green Roof

Under the grass roof is an interesting set of stairs. Crowds of people passed through this space as I waited to take the “perfect picture”, and they each exclaimed, “Oh look! That is interesting.”

Kimbell Art Museum Addition_Stairs

But, more interesting than the slanted concrete wall of the stairs everyone stops to take a picture of is the incision through the grass-covered roof, manifested as a private bench area.

Kimbell Art Museum Addition_bench spot

Which from the outside looks like…

Kimbell Art Museum Addition_Bench spot exterior

Nice, right?

This may just be my personal opinion (which I think is okay to share since this is MY blog), but I think this building doesn’t pop like the original Kimbell Art Museum. If this were an art museum in any other part of the country, it would be a stunning work of architecture that I would not shut up about forever. You’ve seen the pictures now, it is obviously a beautifully detailed place. But still… Not as good as the original…

That is all from my Texas trip I took months ago… Lets play a bit of catch-up!

Hopefully some more recent things will make a blog appearance… Unless… Is there anything new on Netflix right now?

texas vernacular

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