Being a Finnish blogger interested in architecture, a post about Alvar Aalto is bound to pop up at some point. I’ve been blogging since march and have managed to hold the post off for nearly seven months.
Alvar Aalto (1898-1976) is The iconic figure in Finnish architecture and design. Despite having passed away well over thirty years ago, his influence is still very imminent. Having been a groundbreaking modernist he is still today widely admired to a point where this devotion may be called ‘worship’.
Don’t get me wrong. I think he was a genius and definitely a great architect. I am very impressed with many of his works and find them very beautiful and intersting. Still one has to wonder, is it not time to move on?
This summer I joined a guided tour of a building drawn by Aalto called the kansaneläkelaitos (The Social Insurance Institution’s headquarters) – a governmental administration building. This building, completed 1956, is interesting yet definitely not one of Aalto’s most famous ones. I’ve spent much of my childhood near the building but had never before this day been inside it.
Ironically enough, Aalto designed this government office to be a place where the citizens could spend time and interact with the government. It was to be a “people’s living room”. The leather couches in the waiting area are inviting and comfortable. The inner courtyard is peaceful. Yet only a decade later, in the 1960’s, the building had to be closed for the public, and access restricted, because of vandalism. The people did not want this living room. Today, I could not even go to the toilet without somebody helping me out with an electronic key card.
I believe these attempts at producing a good relationship between the state and the individual are very interesting. I am sorry this one didn’t turn out. The place is nice and peaceful on the inside. I don’t know if I’d like to hang out at a government institution, but given the choice, I would not mind sitting on the inner courtyard lawn on a sunny day.
Here’s a view of Aalto’s much more known design and architecture.