Shaking Hands with Alvar Aalto.
JRM(2) 03 - 10 - 2010

After St. Petersburg we travel to Helsinki, Finland, the home of Alvar Aalto. We have less than 24 hours in Helsinki we made the best out of the few hours we were there. Helsinki is a very European city. The street are walkable and all of the buildings are less than 5 stories. It has a great mixture of old and new architecture. There is so much snow here. The weather is cold, but it is not windy. After tour of the new modern buildings in the morning with the local guide we got a chance for free time. Alvar Aalto's most famous buildings are not in the city of Helsinki, but there a many buildings including his first public building, his last public building, his house, and his studio. A small group of us take a tram out to the neighborhood where his house and studio are located. One of us skipped Russia and stayed an extra day in Helsinki so he guided us around. First we stop by Aalto's studio. It is closed so we walk around it in the snow and shake hands with his double handle door. Alto is known for where your hand makes contact with the building so your first encounter with the building is the door handle. Then we make our way through the neighborhood to his house less than a 5 minute walk away. The neighborhood reminds me of the neighbor hood when I visited Frank Lloyd Wright's house. All of the surrounding buildings are similar materials and style. The each house is different but completes the tightly fit neighborhood. We reach Aalto's house but it doesn't open for another 45 minutes so our group of people take a walk around the neighborhood. We walk through a birch tree park and see some people playing hockey on a small ice rink. At every hour the house lets in a few people, but the house is hard to come across unless you know exactly what you are looking for. Although the studio and house have been turned into a museum recently, it would be no different than a group of people finding my house and waiting outside my house till the hour. The house has been arranged so that it would have been exactly the way Aalto lived in it. The best part about the house is that everything is ORIGINAL. We have a group of about 12 and an English speaking guide for about 45 minutes and 15 minute of free time. In the house are plans, drawings, and artwork from Aalto. There are also many different shapes and sizes of "Aalto vases". Aalto was also friends with other famous architects and artists. In his house he had a painting given and signed for him from Le Corbusier. Alexander Calder also did a sculpture of Aalto for him that was in a cabinet. Aalto's wife did design work on furniture and interior design in the house as well. Another fascinating thing to see was the different furniture designed by Alvar and his wife. They designed their furniture so that it would be affordable for the average person. In their house, they had some furniture that they designed that were prototypes and were not produced because they were too expensive. One of the ones that turned out to be too expensive was a multi shelved circular metal table with an ash tray and place to store cigars. Another was a cabinet that housed extra portions of the dining table in the back by acess through a secret door. The house was well worth the time we spent there. In the end each of us sat at Alvar Aalto's studio desk where he would have worked at home.

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