The Finnish architecture critic Juhani Pallasmaa has said that one of Aalto’s principal design methods was collage. This Avant-garde principle was the principle Aalto used in creating the composition for Villa Mairea, a project which he saw as a prototype for living space for generations to come in the future classless society. In the history of 20th-century architecture the credit for adapting wood to the needs of industrial civilization belongs to Aalto and the tradition he created, a tradition which continues to nourish Finnish architects to this day. Numerous Finnish country houses published on these pages over the 10 years that our magazine has existed are interpretations of Villa Mairea. Nor has the collage method lost its relevance. Mathias Nystrom, for instance, has used seven types of wood for his family house (p. 83), while Pekka Helin has assembled the volume of his house (p 55) from seemingly separate verticals, giving this structure a resemblance to a bundle of firewood.
By using glued wood – plywood bent in a gentle S shape, a curve found in configurations of the border between water and land – Aalto was able to do without metal and glass in the design of his furniture and interiors. Today too his experiments have followers – and not just in Finland (p. 35). However, Aalto could not have imagined that in the second decade of the 21st century CLT (cross-laminated timber) would come into extensive use, allowing architects to start designing skyscrapers made from wood – or that surgically precise cutting (CNC) would enable them to create structures with forms which are remote from how wood looks in its living state and from the way in which wood was interpreted by master carpenters in centuries past.
Aalto’s collage – a combination of various volumes and materials coexisting in the same work and together creating a whole – has today been pushed aside by the hybrid, the latter being a different way of joining parts together whereby the parts lose their individuality within a new structure resembling an amalgam or alloy.
Images which are hybrid (glued-wood) or created by a CNC scalpel produce the illusion of man’s almightiness in his technocratic striving to establish total control over nature and over those who are like him (biopower). Seen against the background of the growing boom in wooden multi-storey construction and the numerous parametric experiments involving wood, a material whose individuality is invisible to the indifferent eye of algorithms and robots, the tradition of Aalto’s ‘organic Modernism’ with its careful use of wood looks conservative or even retrograde. And yet it is Aalto and the principles he established which are responsible for the fact that in Finland, Russia, Scandinavia, and the Baltic region we are seeing considerable numbers of new structures which are distinctive, experimental, and yet on a human scale and which ‘remember’ wood’s forest provenance. The 100th anniversary of independence which Finland celebrates this year is also the centenary of the independence of Finnish architectural thought – thought which created its own version of Modernism centred on the idea of using natural materials and imagery in order to give people a better future. In spite of global changes in the design climate, technological pressure, and the acceleration of information exchange, the Finnish take on wood continues to dominate the surrounding architectural landscape. While looking back at its powerful silhouette, Finland’s neighbours can calmly get on with their own creative quests. So long as these roots continue to nourish the trunk of Aalto’s tradition, there will always be life in our region.
26 Vladimir Frolov. Wood after architecture
32 fi. Kseniya Malich. Function, myth, craft. On wood in Finnish
35 fi. Yaroslav Misonzhnikov. A century of wood in Finnish design
38 Aleksey Levchuk. Kingdom of plants
40 Esa Laaksonen. Forest apes from Eskimo land
44 fi. Lukkaroinen Architects. School campus, Pudasjarvi
49 lv. SAALS. Reconstruction of intermediate school, Malta
55 fi. Helin & Co. Auditorium for the headquarters of Metsa Group, Tapiola
58 ee. KUU Arhitektid. Residential building, Tallinn
62 ru. Wood. A new identity. Interview with Nikita Yaveyn
66 ru. WOODBLOCK (Finnish-Russian workshop). Two projects for Kronstadt
73 fi. Balance of wood. Interview with Lisa Voigtlander
80 Kiril Asse. Decorative dignitas
83 fi.MNy Arkitekter. Villa Akerudden, Helsinki
87 lv. NRJA. 8 BLACKS, residential complex, Kurzeme
92 it. Archispektras. Villa in sand dunes, Pape
97 ru. Nikolay Malinin: “Water must wear down stone, but wood is as hard as
102 ru. Nikolay Belousov: architecture with one’s own hands (Drevolyutsia
109 Justinas Jakstonis. Nida: major facelift (EASA festival, 2016)
113 ee. Veetee (‘Water Path’; shelter, hearth, and sauna), Soomaa
116 Nadezhda Kerimova. Does the city need trees?
120 Mikhail Milchik: “The death of wooden architecture in Russia is a
126 Carl-Dag Lige. Modernism, wood, and Estonian architecture in the 1930s
ru.Boulevard of Science. National competition for young architects,
Gatchina, Leningrad Region
137 Design lab
Small scale architectural structures by AOA, KHVOYA, Sintija
Vaivade_Arhitekte, Arches, HGA
166 Design & technology