On Easter Monday we had a large group of Mexican professors and students visiting the Town Hall and the Säynätsalo library. The day began with sunshine but with a chill in the air–something that some of our guests seemed to struggle with. I doubt it ever gets as cold in Mexico as it does in Finland!
Harri began by giving the group a small lecture about the Town Hall. Though the group consisted of students from various facilities, not just architecture and design, we were delighted that everyone took interest in the history and architecture of the building. After the lecture, we had a discussion about what we as Finns think are the defining elements of Aalto’s design. To me the soul of Aalto’s work is in the materials; the understated shapes allow even the simplest materials shine, and the ever-important functionality of Aalto’s designs give his work a strong sense of honesty that to me is distinctively Finnish. Maybe that is why our Mexican visitors seemed so fascinated with Alvar Aalto — in a bustling metropolis like Mexico City with over 21 million residents, a piece of Aalto’s design might bring in just a little bit of the famous Finnish atmosphere of calm and quiet.
A Private Library Tour
Fortunately despite the Easter holidays we were able to introduce our guests to the Säynätsalo library as well. Harri was able to arrange for the alarms to be turned off for the day so we could explore the building freely. It was my first time visiting the library as well, and I could only agree with one our visitors’ comment: “So beautiful!” I was glad to inform the guests that yes, the library is still in use today, this part of the building serving in its original purpose even if administrative functions no longer take place at the Town Hall. Some of the details of Aalto’s design raised more practical questions, too. “How do you open the windows when they’re so high?” A female student asked me, and I had to admit I had no idea. Not until we spent a few moments together studying the construction of the window frames. I suppose you do learn something new every day, as they say.
A Little Bit of Drama
Not everything went as planned during the visit. Our guests were meant to head straight to Helsinki and from there to Russia after their visit, but turned out one of the students had lost her passport containing. She quickly informed us that it was most likely at the Aalto museum, where the group had visited on the previous day, but because of the Easter holidays the museum was closed on Monday. Cue a couple phone calls from Harri, we were luckily able to find someone to open the museum doors for us. I stayed behind to tend to our guests while Harri drove the girl to Jyväskylä to get her passport. Turned out the museum staff had found the passport and tried to take it to the police station, but because the station had also been closed for the Easter holidays the museum receptionist had taken it home with her where it was finally found returned to its relieved owner. It seems that the local holidays always find a way of inconveniencing travelers.
About the Writer
You may have noticed this blog entry wasn’t written by Harri, so I believe some introductions are in order. My name is Lauha and I’m a new intern – or as Harri has dubbed me, a summer guide – here at the Säynätsalo Town Hall. I’m a graduating hospitality management student at JAMK University of Applied Sciences and will be working at the Town Hall for the next few months. I will be working alongside Harri in marketing and development, and also help tend to our visitors. So if you visit the Town Hall during the summer please come and say hi!