Christopher Pierce, Christopher Matthews

Intermediate 9 learns by travelling, thinks and designs through drawing (2D and 3D) and builds the future by reinventing the past. Having focused in the two preceding years on the methods and madness of Antoni Gaudí and James Stirling, this year we turned our attention northwards to modernism’s guv’nor of anti-modernism – Alvar Aalto. But before heading to Finland we spent some time in Blighty ‘surveying’ the work of Leslie Martin, Patrick Hodgkinson and Colin St John Wilson, a collective one of us would call Aalto’s British ‘copyists’, and the other, more tamely, as the English architects Aalto ‘inspired’.

We made our debut sortie to Säynätsalo (and Helsinki, Jyväskylä, Seinäjoki and Noormarkku), site of Aalto’s magisterial, but now largely redundant, town hall. This is where we sited our projects, and (like all good Scandinavian chefs) where we revelled in our foraging through the autumnal woods and forests that covered the hills of Muuratsalo. When we returned to the same site in late January it was both unrecognisable and mesmerising. Säynätsalo was encased by a metre-thick ice surface, and suddenly we could walk past ice fishermen, cross-country skiers and para-gliders to the Experimental House at Muuratsalo or his early church at Muurame. Still frozen to the bone, we then sought immediate warmth by plunging south to Ceramica Cumella in 20-degree Granollers. Here, just outside Barcelona, during a non-prototype-based workshop, our speculative projects moved from digital to physical space. 


As in previous years, the range of all this invention is best captured in our end-of-year ‘family photo’. Taken this time in the AA Archives, we’ve interspersed a few of our inspirations (alongside Christopher Wren and Inigo Jones) as we seek to continue our contribution to the school’s long legacy of influential forms of drawing architecture. Along the way we also acquired a few fascinating facts about our student cohort. Whoever knew that some of them couldn’t ride a bicycle; or that others were incapable of drawing a piece of fruit; or that a number proved manifestly less fit than their aged tutors; or ultimately and shockingly, that a few of them had never before even heard of Aalto!


Unit Staff

Christopher Pierce 

Christopher Matthews


Special thanks to

Peter Aldington

Peter Blundell Jones

Harry Charrington

Niall Hobhouse

MJ Long

Eeva-Liisa Pelkonen

Nicholas Ray

Deborah Saunt

Benedetta Tagliabue


Thanks to


Carlos Villanueva Brandt

Brendon Carlin

Catarina Cruz

Alan Dempsey

Steward Dodd

Kenneth Fraser

Efrén García Grinda

Samantha Hardingham

Francesca Hughes

Max Kahlen

Tomas Klassnik

Tobias Klein

Theo Sarantoglou Lalis



Monia De Marchi

Giles Martin

Tyen Masten

Andrew Matthews

Cristina Díaz Moreno

Lucy Moroney

John Ng

Ian O’Brien

Ann-Sofi Rönnskog

Pablo Ros

Takero Shimazaki

Brett Steele



Tero Hannonen

Jarno Makela

Mari Murtoniemi

Seija Rautiainen

Anu Torm



Toni Cumella

Guillem Cumella

Teresa Ventura

José Luis Ruiz

de Valdivia



Ceramica Cumella

James Mak

In 1939 during the war, Tove Jansson had an urge to write down 'once upon a time'. She knew what followed had to be a fairytale.

Today, we pondered upon the unfinished modernist dream of Alvar Aalto on Saynatsalto Island, the canonical Townhall is left idle, only to be visited by architectural students alike.

This project is the re-invention of the fictional children story of Moomins. Firstly, to disrupt structural or ideological closure of the present and suggest the possibility to what is to be done to Saynatsalo Towhall. Secondly, to use the narrative as a catalyst and agent of union to exemplify the materialisation of the "productive qualities of deconstructing Aalto".

So, once upon a time...