Architects tour, Brighton to Scandinavia and back

Meloy architects have completed a tour of scandinavian architecture with the work of Alvar Aalto as the inspiration for the trip. Having driven from Brighton the tour started in Rotterdam, passed through the Netherlands and Germany to Denmark, over the Oresund bridge to Sweden and north to Finland before heading back to Denmark via Sweden and Southern Norway.
The route focused on the Scandinavian and Nordic moderns but also took in a considerable amount of contemporary architecture.
There were far too many  buildings to mention but, in no particular order, these were some of the highlights which may be helpful to anyone travelling around the region;

1 The Experimental House and Saynatsalo Town Hall, Finland by Alvar Aalto

We managed to see a considerable amount of Aalto’s work and these two projects, which are easily seen in a day, were the most memorable. They both have a subtle intensity which is missing in the larger projects such as the university campus buildings in Espoo and Jyvaskyla. When we arrived at the town hall it was early morning and the sun (which had barely set all night....) was picking out the subtle movement in the brickwork. The brick mass of the building is uncompromisingly modern but manages to sit softly in its lightly wooded setting.
I really enjoy talking to the people that work in these buildings and it was clear from chatting to a few of the workers at the town hall that they loved it. This is so important, as Architects we sometimes promote our monuments at the expense of the experiences of those whom use them. There is no doubt that the spaces in the Town Hall are as relevant today as when they were first completed

If you are travelling to see these two Aalto buildings you will also probably visit Jvaskyla. If so try and see this new church in adjacent Kuokkala by Lassila and Hirvilammi.  Link to Dezeen  

2 Bagsværd Church, Denmark by Jørn Utzon

This is a beautiful building for which images and drawings cannot prepare you. Having turned up late in the day a (very) proud member of the church very kindly gave us a tour. Internally the structure is legible as bare concrete with white painted shuttered concrete in between. This palate of materials are softened with timber doors and furniture finished in what appears to be a white lye soap similar to that used at 121 The kench. The building is housed under a series of vaulted waves which culminates in the sanctuary. The light which filters through slits in the vaults has a divine softness.
If you are in or around Copenhagen looking at Architecture this and Louisiana Museum of Modern Art by Jørgen Bo are the two to see.

3 The Woodland Cemetery by Gunnar Asplund and Sigurd Lewerentz

The structures themselves are excellent but it is the landscape, largely planned by Lewerentz, with its woodland setting that is the finest point. The meditation grove at the end of the Seven Springs way was particularly memorable

4 The Chapel of the Holy Cross, Turku, Finland by Pekka Pitkanen

I had never heard of the Architect but was made aware of this building in ‘Nordic Light’ by Henry Plummer. Its another cemetery and another stunning building. This is barren minimalism at its best - soft, contemplative, timeless with an ethereal quality of light.    

5 St. Petri Church in Klippan, Sweden by Sigurd Lewerentz

This was a second visit to this building having visited it briefly the year before. We managed to see the flower sellers stall in Malmo (photo below) which was a useful backdrop for this visit. St Petri shares the same poetic integrity of the Chapel of Notre Dame at Ronchamp. However, whereas I have always found the large free form areas of Ronchamp difficult, St Petri is an aggregate of its poetry. The intensity of architectural meaning and intention for each and every detail is both meaningful and appropriate. 
I did take photos but couldn't do it justice - however there is a Swedish website on the church where you can find out more -click here.

6 Student Chapel in Otaniemi, Finland by Kaija and Heikki Siren

Situated in the grounds of the Espoo University campus, this modest chapel is almost forgotten amongst the  better known Aalto buildings which is a real shame. Whereas St Petri dramatically controls light emphasising the contrast between that which is everyday outside and the religious practice inside, the Student Chapel is filled with light both from a large wall of clerestory glazing and window wall of glazing at the lower level framing the forest outside. The palate of materials and their clear intentional detailing gives the chapel an affinity with Saynatsalo.    

7 Grundtvigs Church in Copenhagen, Denmark by Peder Vilhelm Jensen-Klint

This is an incredible lesson in brickwork. The church is constructed entirely from hand-formed yellow bricks. Externally these have weathered as one would expect but inside their un-weathered state bathes the interior in a warm golden light. 
For a local Brighton Architecture lesson in amazing brick structures visit St Bartholmews Church which share some of these properties.    

8 Fugslang Art Museum, Denmark by Tony Fretton Architects

We loved this building, and it wasn’t just the weather and the great food we had before in the restaurant :)
The building was evidently built under a budgetary pressure that some will find difficult to reconcile with the detailing and sometimes less refined selection of products. However, the layout of the building is wonderful. Within the landscape it loosely completes the North side of the estate courtyard. Orientated North, the internal arrangement is such that an axial gallery culminates in a dedicated viewing room onto the Lolland fields. There is range in scale of the galleries and all have wonderfully filtered natural light which is strangely omitted for artificial light in a lot of modern art galleries.