Chasing Light (and Aalto) in Finland

18 Degrees’ Maria Favoino travelled to Finland to check out the light and see examples of Alvar Aalto’s work. Here’s her report...

Maria Favoino

A visit to Finland, an unforgettable experience!

Finland is a friendly land where it is impossible not to feel an integral part of nature.

We started from Helsinki and we covered around 1600 kilometers, crossing the lovely lakeside region, passing through Imantra, Lappenranta, Savonlinna until we arrived in Jyväskylä and visit some of Alvar Aalto’s most important works.

We went along silent roads, endless expanses of pines, fir trees and birches, farms with colorful walls and pointed roofs, cheerful streams and charming stretches of ice-water.   Always in the company of the light of the sky, with an infinite horizon and a thousand forms of clouds.

The landscapes were stunning and breathtaking.

Finland is not just nature but also modern with cities built for human beings. We passed through Jyväskylä, then Tampere and Turku.   Then we walked the streets of Helsinki, the queen of the Baltic, an eclectic and vital city of historic buildings with various styles from different periods.  The old fits perfectly with modern edifices, without being intrusive or concealing the city’s main protagonist, the sea and its harbor.

It’s interesting to see how the theme of light, in a place where it is absent during the winter months, becomes essence. Light accompanies dense landscapes of pine, fir and birch, giving wonderful dapple and shade, breathtaking vistas that change over time. The white snow adds to the picture making the memory vivid and dazzling.

And always, light has in architecture a physical valence, it becomes a sober and elegant design material that builds spaces of perception.

A beautiful example is Temppeliaukio Church (1969) excavated in the rock, designed by Timo and Tuomo Suomalainen. The surrounding nature is an integral part of the construction: the walls are made up of the same rocks.The central part of the dome is connected to the rock thanks to a long series of windows through which the light is filtered and create an amazing play of light and shadow.

Temppeliaukio Church

The numerous works of Alvar Aalto, Jyväskylä University Building, Alvar Aalto Museum, Finland Hall never stops surprising.

The direct experience allows me to establish a profound and significant connection to real space.

Fluid and organic forms meet below a natural and artificial natural lighting to achieve a mixed, reflected and diffused light from the skylight walls, which is harmonious and dynamic and restoring human dimension.

“To at least some extent every place can be remembered, partly because it is unique, but partly because it has affected our bodies and generated enough associations to hold it in our personal worlds.”

-The Eyes of the Skin by Pallasmaa

Chasing Light (and Aalto) in Finland - 18 Degrees - Architectural Lighting Design London