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!
Special thanks to
Peter Blundell Jones
Carlos Villanueva Brandt
Efrén García Grinda
Theo Sarantoglou Lalis
Monia De Marchi
Cristina Díaz Moreno
José Luis Ruiz
"Aalto's crepuscular Loyly"
Town hall extension proposal, re-appropriating redundant sections of Alvar Aalto's Town Hall in Saynatsalo, creating the effect of the building leaking into the forest. The project extends the traditional concept of a Loyly ( a Finnish word associated with the experience of steam and heat) - typically experienced in Finnish saunas.
The design studies responded to the extreme Nordic conditions of light and temperature, therefore the building's physical elevation is dissipated by the steam released and the project is ultimately a ghost, revealed and read through its shadows.