The Power of light and shadow

I was lucky to meet Virgile Simon Bertrand, a French photographer. He has been based in Asia since the late 1990s, but still travels a lot between France and Hongkong.  He stayed two nights at the Town Hall guestroom during his short stopover in Finland.

IMG_5190-Edit_joulu2016Virgile found Säynätsalo Town Hall while browsing AirBnb possibilities in Jyväskylä. He said himself that beforehand he really didn’t wait too much for this visit. But in the end it changed when he found the lights and shadows of Aalto’s design. He spent over two hours photographing and also explaining me how the light behaves – he opened me a whole new way of thinking e.g. the relationship of the roof structure and the hidden north facede window. He pointed me to read an article by . In this article he quotes Louis Kahn, one of the leading American architects of the 20th century:

Even a space intended to be dark should have just enough light from some mysterious opening to tell us how dark it really is. Each space must be defined by its structure and the character of its natural light.”

This quote gives me a new way of telling about the darkness of the council chamber and the form of the roof. The roof has at least two functions: outside to lead water out to wanted direction and inside the same structure reflects the light.


I have never seen such a professional camera! The biggest available sensor, adjusts to almost every directions and efficient software for developing raw images on his Mac-computer. Virgile explained calmly to me, without me asking to do so, some interesting details about cameras, photographing and image processing. I got also the priviledge to assist him with the lights. He didn’t use any artificial light, but long exposure times – my job was to switch off the roof lights during the 4 second exposure 🙂

We talked also about the “intellectual property rights”. Nowadays it is allowed to take photographs almost everywhere. Everybody is posting images to Instagram and Facebook. Professional photographing is of course another thing. Photographs taken today by Virgil are not going to be used commercially without a proper permisson. But I hope some day I am able to buy one of the images, ask the permission from Aalto foundation, and to use it in some project.  Virgile has also an Instagram account. And the camera for that purpose is… iPhone.


Finnair makes good work! This is how they announce stopovers:

“When travelling via Helsinki, why not stay in Finland for a day or two and discover another destination on your way? You can book a Finnair stopover in Finland for up to 5 nights on your way to or from your final destination.”

Jyväskylä is an excellent stopover destination for an architect or designer – or even for those who are just interested in architecture or design. Finnar offers connecting flights to Jyväskylä, but train or buss takes only just a bit over three hours to Jyväskylä center from Helsinki.

One more quote here from a Mexican architecture Armando Birlain. He wrote a review about his visit to Town Hall last week:

“The ultimate architect’s escape that only masterpieces can offer. I have done a similar thing before staying at Le Corbusier’s Unité d’Habitation in Marseille, and there was nothing to regret as well. Besides, Harri couldn’t be a better host. I really recommend the stay for any passionate Aalto fan, you won’t be disappointed.”

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