Today's archidose #128

Säynätsalo, originally uploaded by jmtp.

Säynätsalo Town Hall in Säynätsalo, Finland by Alvar Aalto, 1952. Compare the overgrown steps in this shot to this early photograph on the cover of Architectural Regionalism.

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  1. So what's the story? Presumably the earlier circulation plan didn't work so they changed it? Interesting.

    Other than that curiosity, is this building of any significance except for the architect's name?

  2. This building represents the architectural ideas of Aalto more than any other, and it is maybe Aalto's masterpiece. Besides that, I may have never seen architecture that blends in so well, where the architect perfectly understood how to insert architecture into nature, from the use of materials (red brick, also flawed ones, to create a unique and diverse pattern, and wood) to creating a patio in the middle of nowhere. I am not a 100% sure about the overgrown steps, but I suppose that this is just the deliberate and consequent progress of the building merging with its surroundings. Hope that answers your question. G.

  3. How to build up your architect reputation?
    The answer is simple, to design some buildings which can pick up your reputation greatly. How to make the buildings famous? The famous must be greatly functional, unique, special with new style. The building should hook up the people who visits.
    So how could a building like this come out? Actually, one building is a work which need to put the architect, contractor, builder and supplier together. The building will go nowhere if one of which have problem.
    But architect is the Key. He can pick up which kind of material the building can use.
    For a certain project, the architect need to answer a question, how to design the building to be the best with a cost limitation.
    Provided that the abilities of architects are same(one architect is not much better or worse than others). the materials for the building might be the biggest working area for the architect to work on.
    An architect need to pick up the doors, windows, the ceilings, the lightings, the floor tile, the wall covering, the solid surfaces, the custom furnitures, the exterior wall on the building. What the people can see is what can improve the architect reputation.
    So the problem turns to one issue how to find a good material with low cost.
    Take an example, architects was supposed to pick up a wood mantel for a fireplace at cost of $1500. Do some research and find a company who can make marble mantel in the same price. You can find many of these company. For example, a company named Evan’s Home Luxuries, in Boston, New england area. There, some mantel is about the same price.
    Another example, for a entrance wood door, some times the price runs to $8000. If you use a cooper door, brass door, bronze door with the same price, definitely it will make the building a better reputation.
    Use the granite tile to substitute the ceramic tile. A lot of suppliers can do that.
    Use the wrought iron fence to substitute aluminum fences. Many.
    You can find it.
    It is the architect home work to do the research about all the material which will be used on the building. Do not point on the contracts do your homework if you want to be famous and make your money.
    Architects are busy. I know some of Architect Company begins to hire buyer to do the investigation work about the architect material. This will be a fashion.

  4. Thanks, Gunnar.

    But I wish I could see what is so great about this work. I guess that is what "makes markets" -- differences of opinions.

    As to the steps, you actually think that they designed & built the steps with the specific intention of letting them be overgrown? That's what I get out of "...I suppose that this is just the deliberate and consequent progress of the building merging with its surroundings."

  5. Hi David, I wouldn't go so far as to say that it was planned that way. I think it is just a result, as it started to overgrow, they figured that it can stay like this. From another point of view, you might say that because the building blends in so well with the surroundings, the overgrowing didn't disturb the architecture, it fits. I just like it that way, it makes sense, the building integrates itself into the forest even more - By the way, there is a great TV documentation on that building. It is made by the German / French TV station arte. (avaliable in English as well)

  6. Thanks for pointing this out - a great example of architectural mediation.
    You can see from this photo that the steps aren't really steps per se, but more of a planted terrace. Whether this terrace was supposed to get quite so overgrown or not, who knows? There was a renovation of this masterpiece in the mid 90s but nevertheless, Aalto used to say that it would take 50 years before his buildings could be judged properly. And I would imagine he meant judged in the flesh rather than in a photo. More than any other architect, it is impossible to judge his buildings on photos and drawings. I never "got" Aalto as a student with all his seemingly irrational lines and random materials, but on visiting them, they are in a class of their own. I was a complete convert. He's one of those rare modern architects (from the "other tradition" that I see advertised in the right hand column) that creates buildings to be inhabited rather than photographed.

  7. Sure like to see a site plan. I see what you mean about the "steps" but that sure is an odd thing to do in a spot that looks like it would want circulation.

  8. Nope, I haven't been able to find a site plan...i.e. Aalto's own site plan to see how he described it.

    It seems quite strange that he would build something is in a spot where one would expect a stair and something which looks like a stair from one side and yet it appears to be a series of landscaped benches.

    Very strange.


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