Northern Light

There is an endemic problem surrounding the fate of 20th century iconic buildings. They were once masterpieces with progressive vision, but over the past five or six decades, their original programs have become obsolete, economic and political situations have shifted and society has changed. It is a problem we face today to work with the historical skeletons of these vibrant structures of the past. There is a necessity for contemporary practice to update their identities, invent new uses and programs, supplement with contextual planning and ancillary buildings, and conserve them for the purpose of common history to ensure continuity of civilization. The iconic structures of Alvar Aalto are no exception. At least four canonical buildings are facing the fate of demolition due to their deterioration or loss of use. The list includes Defense Corps Complex, Vuoksenniska church, Paimio tuberculosis sanitarium, and Saynatsalo Town Hall.

Our studio will take on the case of Saynatsalo Town Hall compound in Jyvaskyla. The merger of municipalities made this Town Hall obsolete and the current political body wants it gone, disregarding that it is one of the most archetypal examples of Alvar Aalto’s work. It illustrates masterful arrangements and coexistence of diverse scales, its siting making the compound expansive and monumental for the size of the building. There are 28 Aalto structures in this area once his childhood home, the Aalto Foundation and its archive and museum existing nearby. Aalto also made early seminal town plans for Jyvaslyla.

In collaboration with Aalto Foundation and Aalto Foundation, the studio will propose new use for the building by identifying conservation strategies and upgrades. There is an adjacent site where the original daycare center was once proposed where we will propose an ancillary structure to absorb contemporary necessities and additional programs for the survival of the main building. Students will analyze and study Saynatsalo Town Hall as well as other buildings of Aalto and propose a design in dialogue with his architecture, ideas and materiality. Since Aalto was known for designing in multiple scales, the studio will work on architecture as well as the intimate scale of detailing and furniture design.