#22: Stalk the Aalto family in Munkkiniemi

All year, Alvar Aalto, Architecture, Helsinki, Uncategorized

Aalto’s house located in peaceful Munkkiniemi is definitely worth a visit. For me, Munkkiniemi had until yesterday been a place somewhere a bit further away, close to the hospital district – but it is, in fact, really fancy, not unlike for example the areas of Kulosaari or Lehtisaari. A lot of lavish villas from various periods and built in different architecture styles, full-grown trees, proximity of the sea and a sea promenade, well, when I win the lottery I might like to consider living there!

One of my future neighbour houses would be Alvar Aalto’s home (and office for some time) located at Riihitie 20, facing former cadet school, and is really pretty, even in early Finnish winter.

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I did not have the right lens to take pictures of the garden which constitutes an important part of the house. It was quite humble, but as the plot is located on a slope overlooking a football plan it feels really spacious and airy.

 

There is a little catch, and that would be that the house visit is not for free (except for the exterior, obviously), and Museokortti will not give you any discount this time. This house and the nearby Studio Aalto are managed by Aalto foundation, private management has its perks and downsides. The house is in mint condition, but there is a certain (affordable) price to pay for this;)

The interior is planned in a really rational and functional way, yet thanks to the use of natural materials (fabric, wood, reed mats, etc.) and traditional Nordic (and Japanese) elements it feels really homey and cosy. Maybe even too cosy this cold November afternoon due to the small number of lamps. The round roof openings letting natural light helped a bit, but the overall impression was Wow, it is dark in here, how can one sit comfortably in the sofa and read?

I’m a big fan of Aalto’s furniture and lamps, but I have my comments on the latter: they are beautiful, yet not very functional. I’m sorry. I understand that a part of the design was to conceal the source of light, and in this respect he succeeded, but maybe too much has been concealed..?

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… and some abstract artwork by Aalto:

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About a 10 minute walk from Aalto’s house, at Tiilimäki 20, you will find the Studio Aalto. Alvar Aalto ran the office from 1955 until his death in 1976. After that, the office continued under the leadership of Elissa Aalto until 1994 and today it houses the Alvar Aalto Foundation, the Alvar Aalto Academy and the Alvar Aalto Museum Architectural Heritage. And it was closed yesterday, so I only managed to take a few peaks of the exterior:

And about 38 seconds away from Aalto Foundation House you will find those kind of views:miu_4352

That white patch in the top section of the picture is THE SUN. Very welcome that day.

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Come and visit some day. Really. Take a walk around Tiilimäki and the sea promenade, the atmosphere is so noble and peaceful.

I promise I will prepare a longer guide to Munkkiniemi one day, I just wanted to let you know that Aalto’s house is worth the visit, despite its non-central location.

Contact information: Tram 4 to last stop at Munkkiniemi, for more info see the website.

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#18: Share in a Scandinavian way at Rikhardinkadun kirjasto (Rikhardinkatu library)

All year, Helsinki, Indoors, Libraries, Uncategorized

What would Finland be without public libraries, cosy social, cultural and communication hubs scattered all over the country?

Helsinki can of course boast with some of the oldest libraries in Finland. It is located at Rikhardinkatu 3; it is a building from 1880s originally designed by Theodor Höijer , afterwards it was further extended in the 1920s and the interior in the form and looks we know nowadays was renovated in the 1980s. It used to be the main library of Helsinki until 1986 – which is quite surprising because it is not that huge – and because Finland has such a strong tradition of libraries!

Unlike in other countries (among others the paperback/Kindle powers – I’m looking at you, UK), it is no shame for middle and upper-middle class to use library for (obviously) borrowing books, music and video data free of charge, printing and copying things, using fax machines (lol), shredding documents… and for 3D printing, repairing your clothes, organising cultural events and similar. I know, right, cheap 3D printing should so much be available to everyone, just like using quality sewing machines for quick repairs or smaller projects or workshops. Recycling and sharing so typical for the Scandinavians in another form.

Now, Rikhardinkatu library is beautiful. Humble on the outside, just off Las Ramblas of Helsinki (Esplanaadinpuisto), and so cosy. I had never been before (“my” library is the one at Elielinaukio (Kirjasto 10): conveniently located just outside the train station, so if you would like a warm spot with WiFi without the obligation of buying bad coffee for when waiting for your train connection, Kirjasto 10 should be considered an option), visited it extempore for the first time on Friday – and thought I should explore public libraries more in my blog, and Rikhardinkatu library seemes like a great place to start. Some of them surely deserve attention…

 

#17: Learn to cope with death at the Pet cemetery (Eläinten hautausmaa)

All year, Cemetery, Darkness, Helsinki, Spooky, Uncategorized, Walk

This is a spot which I would recommend not only to cemetery enthusiasts – it is situated in the heart of Central Park (a 10 sq km stripe of park area stretching from Töölönlahti Bay to the border of Helsinki and Vantaa), therefore visiting it can be connected with a refreshing walk and wild herb picking. It is not too well know to the locals, so again you will be the smart pants in the gang…

… and most importantly, it is a place taking an unusual and incredibly human stance on the topics of death and mourning.

Pet cemeteries in general are often considered childish products of emotionally immature mind. For me they are the most sincere and personal tangible representations of mourning in Western culture.

When a beloved pet (a valid member of the family) passes away, the bereaved are not tied by any kind of social or religious conventions – with an exception of the fact that they chose to bury the pets in a cemetery and not just anywhere. The tombs come all kinds of shapes, materials and sizes, and most of them are somehow home-made. What you would not dare to do in “normal” cemeteries you are much free’er to do here; it’s exactly the personal touch what makes this space so moving. I’d say this is a great starting point when you want to teach your kids (and yourself, to be honest) about death. How natural it is. How the being who passed away continues living in our hearts, in us, how its presence on Earth shaped us…

Graves are generally very well decorated with a lot of effort: freshly cut flowers, little flowerpots and vases, candles, but unlike human graves you will find pets’ “personal” belongings. Toys. Collars. Balls.

And dogs have their heroes too!

Last note of this post: see you soon, Ideal Idol? Please don’t haunt my dreams.

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Contact: Metsäläntie 9 (about). Bus stop Haaga Metsäläntie.

#11: Take a walk around Kivinokka recreation area

All year, Helsinki, Outdoors, Sea, Uncategorized, Walk

Kivinokka is a recreational area located a few hundred metres from Kulosaari metro station. It is, again, positively bizarre spot: today we are talking about a collection of several hundred summer cabins, some of which date back to early 20th century. The idea was quite clear: to provide city dwellers with a place not too far from their homes where they can spend their precious free time in close proximity of nature. Nowadays Kivinokka is located pretty much in the centre of Helsinki, but hundred years ago it must have been a true paradise: beaches, forest, blueberries, bird-watching tower and a little shop/café for the more social ones.

The following applies to pretty much entire Finland: if you want to make the most out of visiting a place of choice in Finland, do make an extra effort and visit it both in winter and in summer. Summer charms are indisputable, the colours, the light, those wild flowers, sea, wind, ice-cream and birches. Winter (or any time between September and April), on the other hand, converts most areas into quasi-ghost towns. The tranquility is further accentuated by the wintery silence, lack of people and colours and other disturbing factors.

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And that is what happened in Kivinokka one late autumn afternoon. The seasonal frolics just went, like migratory birds, and what was left was just a memory, or a collection of happy stories and memories, and an assuring yet somehow volatile promise of another summer coming next year. Cabins prepared for winter. Deserted beach. Empty café. Ah, I loved every single second of it, and have to come back. I loved it so much I decided not to complain that I had left my gloves and hat in the car and was freezing badly.

This is the 1930s functionalist kiosk/café. One of very few places in Kivinokka with electricity. Apparently someone showed their disapproval with the actions of the (female) owners of the kiosk. Who knows why.

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Kivinokka’s story gets actually pretty exciting: in 2013 – or 2014? – the local authority decided to tear down a substantial part of the area and upscale it: yeah, you are right, that means building yet another mini housing estate with Vuosaari-style flats selling at a price out of range for middle class. Fortunately, a group of active citizens expressed their dissent and started nurturing the local community. Nowadays, a wide range of social and cultural events take place in Kivinokka throughout the summer part of the year. It has been making some headlines, and it is definitely a place worth a visit in the summer – for all attractions Kivinokka can offer, check out this map and this link.

More information: http://kivinokka.fi/

Contact: Kipparlahden silmukka, 00810 Helsinki