Pilgrimage to Paimio

My Aalto tour concluded with a visit to the iconic Paimio Sanatorium. Widely considered Aalto’s first masterpiece, the building was well worth every step of my pilgrimage. And boy was it a pilgrimage! I set up camp in Turku, the closest major city, a short 30 minute bus ride to Paimio. Excuse me, a short bus ride to a station 3km outside Paimio. Add that to the 4km (uphill!) between the town center and the Sanatorium, mostly along relatively deserted highways. But the end of this path stood a magnificent building, well worth the journey (and a generous tour guide who took pity on this wary traveler and offered me a ride back to Turku!).  

 Random roadside en route / 19 July

Random roadside en route / 19 July

When it comes to this building, my pictures simply don't do it justice. Perhaps it was the grey day. Or maybe I was distracted trying to soak up the ambiance. Looks like I captured the colors, but not necessarily the character of this stunning place. Regardless, I'll let the images speak for themselves where possible. The curious can find ample information in any modern architecture survey. It's certainly one for the history books.

 Paimio Sanatorium / 19 July

Paimio Sanatorium / 19 July

 Paimio Sanatorium / 19 July

Paimio Sanatorium / 19 July

 Paimio Sanatorium / 19 July

Paimio Sanatorium / 19 July

Love love love the bright floors, intended to enhance the natural sunlight streaming in from the surrounding windows. 

 Paimio Sanatorium / 19 July

Paimio Sanatorium / 19 July

 Paimio Sanatorium / 19 July

Paimio Sanatorium / 19 July

 Paimio Sanatorium / 19 July

Paimio Sanatorium / 19 July

Aalto originals! The lamp (above) and chair (below), obviously. But also the shade of green for the ceilings, engineered specifically to sooth patients looking up from their beds or chairs.  

 The original (as in first!) Paimio chair! / 19 July

The original (as in first!) Paimio chair! / 19 July

All the Aalto...in Jyväskylä

After a solid week in Helsinki, my Aalto tour took me north to Jyväskylä, a city in Central Finland. Not only did Aalto grow up in the region, but after completing his studies in Helsinki, he also set up his first studio in the city. As a result, the city and surrounding region are home to a collection of Aalto buildings that span his career.

If I had to give Jyvaskyla an American counterpart, it would be Charlottesville. Like my own hometown, the small city is dominated by the presence of a large university designed by a famous architect and surrounded by a stunning landscape. Oh and brick abounds! Nothing like an abundance of brick to make me feel like I’m back in the land of Jefferson.

 Jyväskylä University / 15 July

Jyväskylä University / 15 July

 Jyväskylä University / 15 July

Jyväskylä University / 15 July

 Jyväskylä University / 15 July

Jyväskylä University / 15 July

 Jyväskylä University / 15 July

Jyväskylä University / 15 July

Other main attractions in downtown Jyvaskyla include the Alvar Aalto Museum and the Museum of Central Finland, both design by – you guessed it! Aalto.

 Alvar Aalto Museum / 16 July 

Alvar Aalto Museum / 16 July 

 Alvar Aalto Museum / 16 July 

Alvar Aalto Museum / 16 July 

 Alvar Aalto Museum / 16 July 

Alvar Aalto Museum / 16 July 

 Alvar Aalto Museum / 16 July 

Alvar Aalto Museum / 16 July 

 Chairs chairs chairs! Alvar Aalto Museum / 16 July 

Chairs chairs chairs! Alvar Aalto Museum / 16 July 

But I made the journey to the Finnish Lakeland for two landmarks in Aalto’s oeuvre – the Säynätsalo Town Hall and his Murratsalo Experimental House.

Säynätsalo Town Hall, 1949-51

Built into the wooded hillside of the island municipality of Säynätsalo, Aalto’s design merged Finnish vernacular architecture with a nod to the classicism of Italian Renaissance that provided endless inspiration for Aalto after his honeymoon in Italy.

 Cooridors at Säynätsalo Town Hall / 16 July 

Cooridors at Säynätsalo Town Hall / 16 July 

 Brick brick brick brick brick brick / 16 July

Brick brick brick brick brick brick / 16 July

Panoramic perfection!

 Säynätsalo Town Hall Courtyard / 16 July

Säynätsalo Town Hall Courtyard / 16 July

 Among the trees / 16 July 

Among the trees / 16 July 

The iconic grass terraces!

 Säynätsalo Town Hall / 16 July

Säynätsalo Town Hall / 16 July

 Säynätsalo Town Hall / 16 July

Säynätsalo Town Hall / 16 July

 Säynätsalo Town Hall from the bus stop / 16 July

Säynätsalo Town Hall from the bus stop / 16 July

Muuratsalo Experimental House, c. 1952

 Muuratsalo Experimental House / 17 July 

Muuratsalo Experimental House / 17 July 

While the Säynätsalo Town Hall was under construction, Aalto and his second wife Elissa discovered the small island of Muuratsalo in the Päijänne Lake.

 Reflecting / 17 July

Reflecting / 17 July

On the grounds of his summer retreat, Aalto built a house, a woodshed, a sauna, and a boat-house. The L-shaped main building of the house encloses an internal courtyard, which functioned both as the central living and entertaining space and as a laboratory for Aalto’s experimentations – hence the name “Experimental House.”

 Boat house / 17 July

Boat house / 17 July

 Sauna! / 17 July 

Sauna! / 17 July 

As is evident from the courtyard, Aalto experimented continuously, with a variety of different forms and materials. On the walls of the courtyard, he played with ceramic materials, types of brick pointing and sizes. He also tested the effects on different surfaces, experimenting with finishing techniques, from brick to stone to the effect and durability of decorative plants and mosses. 

 More brick in the courtyard / 17 July

More brick in the courtyard / 17 July

 Muuratsalo Experimental House / 17 July 

Muuratsalo Experimental House / 17 July 

IMG_4530.jpg
 Muuratsalo Experimental House / 17 July 

Muuratsalo Experimental House / 17 July 

IMG_0125.jpg

At the Water's Edge

First things first, it will be no surprise to anyone that travel, especially solo travel for weeks on end, is exhausting. I don’t mean for this to be an excuse, but more of an apology for my absence in reporting back here. But now I’m home in Philadelphia, and have been for almost as long as I was away, I’m circling back with some recaps.

Most conversations in the weeks since my return have included the following back and forth:

Friend : “How was your trip? Your Instagram photos were amazing!”

Me : “Thanks! It was fantastic!”

“Fantastic!” was about all I could muster. I saw, did, ate, and experienced so much and I struggled to communicate it all in small talk. But I’m coming round to some real, communicable reflections about my summer that I’m ready to share. To begin, water! I’ve decided I must live at the water’s edge, as I did from June until August.

While I was raised in landlocked central Virginia, I spent summers swimming laps at a local pool or in the rocky waters of Martha’s Vineyard. I took the water for granted, until this summer. This summer, I reveled in every moment I spent by the water.

From the ferry ride off the island (to a bus to a plane to Europe…).

 Bidding adieu to MVY. / 7 July 2015

Bidding adieu to MVY. / 7 July 2015

To walks along the harbors in Helsinki…

 Eläintarhanlahti / 10 July 2015

Eläintarhanlahti / 10 July 2015

And train/bus rides (and house tours!) along the Finnish lakelands…

 Train to Turku / 18 July 2015

Train to Turku / 18 July 2015

 Bus to Saynatsalo / 16 July 2015

Bus to Saynatsalo / 16 July 2015

 Shore by Aalto's Summer Villa at Muuratsalo / 17 July 2015

Shore by Aalto's Summer Villa at Muuratsalo / 17 July 2015

To a cruise ride across the Baltic Sea…

 Viking Cruise Turku > Stockholm / 21 July 2015

Viking Cruise Turku > Stockholm / 21 July 2015

 Viking Cruise Turku > Stockholm / 21 July 2015

Viking Cruise Turku > Stockholm / 21 July 2015

And sunset runs around Stockholm’s Archipelago…

 Stockholm / 23 July 2015

Stockholm / 23 July 2015

To private boat rides around Copenhagen’s canals... 

 Copenhagen / 2 August 2015

Copenhagen / 2 August 2015

And multiple trips to the tip of the Danish peninsula looking out to Sweden…

 Humlebaek, Denmark / 27 August 2015

Humlebaek, Denmark / 27 August 2015

 Humlebaek, Denmark / 2 August 2015

Humlebaek, Denmark / 2 August 2015

 Humlebaek, Denmark / 2 August 2015

Humlebaek, Denmark / 2 August 2015

And snacks along the Seine with old friends…

 Seine / 5 August 2015

Seine / 5 August 2015

My conclusion? Besides confirmation of my affinity for the color blue, I believe for me the water is therapeutic. The smell, the touch, the temperature. Even just the sight. And while the Schuylkill’s no Seine, the walk across the Walnut St. bridge is better than nothing. 

More to come!

Helsinki, the World Design Capital 2012

In late-summer 2012, during a lunch staff meeting with a light agenda, one of my bosses spent close to an hour presenting a slideshow of photographs from his most recent trip to Helsinki. At the time, I knew very little Helsinki, let alone Finland, so I listened dutifully, like the entry-level employee that I was, while I ate my free lunch. He went on about the site for the future Guggenheim, his admiration for the city’s abundant bike paths, and X. While our organization worked quite closely with both the Finnish Consult in New York and the Finnish Cultural Institute, his trip was to celebrate Helsinki’s designation as the World Design Capital for 2012.

Having now toured the city myself, I see how deserving the city is of this title. Design in Helsinki comes in many shapes and sizes – from the superb examples of modern architecture to the small, but excellent museums dedicated to all things design, many of which were on my itinerary during my stay.

First, the Design Museo. The museum's permanent installation is dedicated to the history of modern Finnish design. Organized chronologically, I loved the super-graphics that acted as wayfinding throughout the galleries.

 Design Museo / 10 July 2015

Design Museo / 10 July 2015

In addition to the permanent exhibition, the museum also had a temporary show on the Finnish designer Tapio Wirkkala.

 Wirkkala Revisted @ Design Museo / 10 July 2015

Wirkkala Revisted @ Design Museo / 10 July 2015

 Wirkkala Revisted @ Design Museo / 10 July 2015

Wirkkala Revisted @ Design Museo / 10 July 2015

AND a fabulous (and beautifully designed/installed) exhibition of Finnish fashion.

 Design Museo / 10 July 2015

Design Museo / 10 July 2015

 Design Museo / 10 July 2015

Design Museo / 10 July 2015

 Classic Marimekko stripes on display! @ Design Museo / 10 July 2015

Classic Marimekko stripes on display! @ Design Museo / 10 July 2015

The Contemporary Art Museum, Kiasma, is located just off the main city center in Helsinki along the Töölö Bay, in a strange, ridiculous, and magnificent Steven Holl building. 

 Kiasma by Holl / 14 July 2015

Kiasma by Holl / 14 July 2015

Above is the backside of the museum, with the glass facade letting light into 5 floors of galleries. You enter the building at the other end of the massively curved structure and are greeted with a grand atrium "corridor" through the doors. The ramps lead up to the galleries and form the main circulation system (and provide the best views!) throughout the museum. During my visit, I saw a Robert Mapplethorpe retrospective, a group show on portraiture by contemporary Finnish artists, and installation on the elements (earth, wind, fire, water). 

 Kiasma / 14 July 2015

Kiasma / 14 July 2015

 Stunning wall of Patti Smith portraits in the Kiasma's Mapplethorpe retrospective / 14 July 2015

Stunning wall of Patti Smith portraits in the Kiasma's Mapplethorpe retrospective / 14 July 2015

 Mirror selfie @ Kiasma / 14 July 2015

Mirror selfie @ Kiasma / 14 July 2015

(I also saw a few fantastic shows at the Museum of Finnish Architecture - where several of the exhibitions I installed in New York originated! - but none particularly photogenic.)

And then there’s the shopping! Helsinki is home to a booming design district filled with fashion boutiques, chic cafés, home goods and décor stores, niche craft shops and the like. 

Not to mention the big international design retailers like Iittala, Artek, and Marimekko, all of which are available to varying degrees in the U.S. and have their headquarters/flagships in or around the city. 

For the curious, Artek is the furniture company founded by Aalto and his first wife Aino made famous by selling the iconic stacking stools and geometric textiles. Iittala is a Finnish design company, founded as a glassworks in 1881. It carries tableware designed by the Aaltos, notably Alvar’s vases and Aino’s glasses, in addition to products by other Scandinavian designers. And Marimekko is…Marimekko! The very very very iconic Finnish clothing and textile brand known for its striped shirts (<3) and bright, bold patterns. Some Iittala and Artek products are available in the MoMA Design Store and there is a Marimekko store in the Flatiron district in New York.

 Marimekko outlet! / 13 July 2015

Marimekko outlet! / 13 July 2015

 Discount textiles! Marimekko outlet! I bought some of the Helsinki pattern in the top image and am open to suggestions for how to put it to good use! / 13&nbsp;July 2015

Discount textiles! Marimekko outlet! I bought some of the Helsinki pattern in the top image and am open to suggestions for how to put it to good use! / 13 July 2015

In addition to a slew of stores, both Iittala and Marimekko have outlet stores in the area – the holy grail for design enthusiasts like myself! (Sadly, no such luck with Artek…but they do have a sample sale in New York in the fall.) Let it be known, that when left to my own devices on grey rainy days, when most museums are closed, I will trek out to the suburbs for deep discounts on designer glassware, textiles, and home goods. And I did just that. 

 ALL the Aalto glasses at the Iittala outlet / 12&nbsp;July 2015

ALL the Aalto glasses at the Iittala outlet / 12 July 2015

 The Arabia Gallery, just a few floors above the Iittala outlet. This display may have inspired me to start a teacup collection. / 12 July 2015

The Arabia Gallery, just a few floors above the Iittala outlet. This display may have inspired me to start a teacup collection. / 12 July 2015

Christmas in July! No really – Merry Christmas (and happy birthday, and congratulations on your wedding…) to all my friends and family, because chances are I purchased your gifts here.

 Beatiful display of Aalto vases in an array of shapes and colors / 12 July 2015

Beatiful display of Aalto vases in an array of shapes and colors / 12 July 2015

All the Aalto...in Helsinki

If you’re wondering why I chose Scandinavia as my travel grant destination, the answer is quite simple. Alvar Aalto (1898 – 1978). Sure - I’m as enamored with Scandinavian modernism as the next architecture and design enthusiast and welcomed the opportunity to experience such classics in person. But, for me, the work of the Finnish modernist Alvar Aalto stands apart, elevated above a sea of imitations. 

I first encountered Aalto through his furniture, having grown up typing on a computer that rested on an Aalto table and filling Aalto vases with flowers for holiday centerpieces. I have fond memories of researching Aalto objects during my MoMA internship and a lunch break adventure with my boss to the Artek sample sale in New York. Now, I am the proud owner of two chairs (the first in my small but mighty modern chair collection) and a set of glasses, not to mention a set of Ikea knock-off stools. In large part, my hands-on interactions with Aalto design has been limited to furniture and design objects out of necessity, as the architect built almost exclusively in Finland, with a handful of projects around Europe and just two in the U.S. 

But you better believe I remember the Aalto lectures from my undergraduate days (thanks Sheila Crane!). The typical modern architecture survey gives a good, if brief introduction to his work, using the Paimio Sanatorium (on my itinerary for next week!), the Säynätsalo Town Hall (just saw today!), and Villa Mairea (sadly won’t make it to this trip) among others as a means of highlighting the Finn’s sensitivity to light, the peculiarities of a site, the surrounding environment (“nature”), and the vernacular building materials and techniques. Coupled with my love for Aalto design, I longed for the opportunity to experience the nuances of Aalto’s architecture IRL. And here I am - thanks CASVA!

As a result, Aalto’s work has defined my Finnish itinerary thus far and below are the buildings I saw in Helsinki. (Note – I’ve also seen lots of the furniture and design objects, in and out of museum settings, and will recap those soon.)

Aalto House - 1935-36

 North/Street facade / Aalto House&nbsp;/ 11 July 2015

North/Street facade / Aalto House / 11 July 2015

 Aalto House / 11 July 2015

Aalto House / 11 July 2015

 South/rear facade / Aalto House&nbsp;/ 11 July 2015

South/rear facade / Aalto House / 11 July 2015

 Aalto House / 11 July 2015

Aalto House / 11 July 2015

 Aalto's home studio desk / Aalto House / 11 July 2015

Aalto's home studio desk / Aalto House / 11 July 2015

 Main living room / Aalto House / 11 July 2015

Main living room / Aalto House / 11 July 2015

 Upstairs living room / Aalto House / 11 July 2015

Upstairs living room / Aalto House / 11 July 2015

 Aalto House / 11 July 2015

Aalto House / 11 July 2015

 Aalto portrait by Calder / Aalto House / 11 July 2015

Aalto portrait by Calder / Aalto House / 11 July 2015

Studio Aalto, just down the road from the house. 1954-56

 Amphitheatre / Studio Aalto / 11 July 2015

Amphitheatre / Studio Aalto / 11 July 2015

 Entry rail covered in flowers / Studio Aalto / 11 July 2015

Entry rail covered in flowers / Studio Aalto / 11 July 2015

 Studio Aalto / 11 July 2015

Studio Aalto / 11 July 2015

The studio, like the house, is of course outfitted exclusively with Aalto furniture, as well as prototypes, including a series of lamps seen hanging from the balcony and the plywood experiments hung on the wall.

 Studio Aalto / 11 July 2015

Studio Aalto / 11 July 2015

 Studio Aalto / 11 July 2015

Studio Aalto / 11 July 2015

 All the files! / Studio Aalto / 11 July 2015

All the files! / Studio Aalto / 11 July 2015

 Wood-binding prototypes / Studio Aalto / 11 July 2015

Wood-binding prototypes / Studio Aalto / 11 July 2015

Hall of Culture (Kulttuuritalo) - 1955-58

 Hall of Culture / 12 July 2015

Hall of Culture / 12 July 2015

 Brick detail / Hall of Culture / 12 July 2015

Brick detail / Hall of Culture / 12 July 2015

Finlandia Hall - 1962-71

 Finlandia Hall / 12 July 2015

Finlandia Hall / 12 July 2015

 Finlandia Hall / 12 July 2015

Finlandia Hall / 12 July 2015

 Lamp detail /&nbsp;Finlandia Hall / 12 July 2015

Lamp detail / Finlandia Hall / 12 July 2015

 Finlandia Hall / 12 July 2015

Finlandia Hall / 12 July 2015

First Impressions

 Helsinki map - in wood! - at the Design Museo / 10 July 2015

Helsinki map - in wood! - at the Design Museo / 10 July 2015

Hey! Hei! 

Greetings from Helsinki, where all is well and the sun really is out close to 20 hours a day. I am now half-way through my time in Helsinki and what a perfect Scandinavian introduction. The weather has been a mixed bag of sun, clouds, and rain, but that hasn’t stopped me from exploring the city. Read on for some first impressions.
 

 Helsinki waterfront, with a wonderful market just beyond the parked cars. / 9 July 2015

Helsinki waterfront, with a wonderful market just beyond the parked cars. / 9 July 2015

Finland is not the first place I’ve traveled to where I cannot understand the language, but for some reason I’ve found Finnish surprisingly jarring. Full disclosure I made ZERO effort to learn any foreign languages for my trip—no hello, good-bye, thank you, yes or even no—relying on the advice of friends and ex-pats that everyone speaks English well. While this is true, I’ve realized how limited, and to be honest embarrassingly American, I feel by myself without basic language skills. (Sidenote – many kudos to the Finns for their truly superb English! Much appreciated!) So I’m now doing my best to nail down a few essential words and phrases to at the very least be able to exchange pleasantries. (Note right now my biggest hurdle is pronunciation – definitely a doozy!) Lesson learned.

 Helsinki Central Railway Station, designed by Eliel Saarinen (1919) / 9 July 2015

Helsinki Central Railway Station, designed by Eliel Saarinen (1919) / 9 July 2015

Helsinki, Finland’s capital, has proved the ideal starting point for my trip. Notwithstanding the semi-language barrier and the fact that this is my first time in Scandinavia/Northern Europe, the city feels quite familiar. After only a few days, I’ve been able to traverse most of the city, including some suburbs, and feel completely comfortable wandering around without fear of getting lost. A decent-sized and digestible city, Helsinki reminds me a lot of Philadelphia. It has history and tourists, waterfronts, architecture—both historic and modern, lots of students, and cobble-stone streets. I’m pleased to say, with a little help from Google Maps and CityMaps2Go (available OFFLINE!), I’ve had no trouble navigating the streets. And while the public transportation is reliable and relatively cheap, I’ve done my best to walk everywhere I can, hills and all.

 Helsinki Senate Square / 9 July 2015

Helsinki Senate Square / 9 July 2015

And now for more images, less words. 

 Marimekko - give me all the Marimekko.&nbsp;/ 9 July 2015

Marimekko - give me all the Marimekko. / 9 July 2015

Some early Aalto and design crumbs - more to come!

 Interior view of Aalto's Academic Bookstore and Café Aalto. / 9 July 2015

Interior view of Aalto's Academic Bookstore and Café Aalto. / 9 July 2015

 Artek Flagship Store! / 9 July 2015

Artek Flagship Store! / 9 July 2015

 Genius marketing.&nbsp;/ 9 July 2015

Genius marketing. / 9 July 2015

I've enjoyed several "night" walks to take advantage of the extended daylight. In case you need proof of the insistent Scandinavian Sun, below, my friends, is Helsinki at 9:45. PM! And those blues and pinks are all natural - no photo editing I promise.

 Eläintarhanlahti / 10 July 2015

Eläintarhanlahti / 10 July 2015

 Kallio Church / 10 July 2015

Kallio Church / 10 July 2015

 10:15 Sunset over streets of Kallio. / 10 July 2015

10:15 Sunset over streets of Kallio. / 10 July 2015

And finally, solo traveling leads to half-selfies...

JB in Scandi

 

Next Tuesday, after all the patriotic fanfare dies down, I fly to Helsinki. I received a generous fellowship from CASVA/National Gallery to support travel through Scandinavia and my voyage begins in Finland. During the course of my trip, I plan to post images and a word or two here to document my travels and update friends/family stateside. Expect mostly buildings, a good dose of food, a dash of art, the occasional tourist trap and the rare selfie.

ITINERARY
Helsinki > Jyväskylä > Turku > Stockholm > Copenhagen (>Paris!)

Follow along here, or for more in-the-moment updates on Instagram - @julianabarton and #jbinscandi .

P.S. If you have any friends, family, colleagues, or acquaintances I should meet by all means connect us!