№29 Wood


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.




6 Events

25 Wood

26 Vladimir Frolov. Wood after architecture

32 fi. Kseniya Malich. Function, myth, craft. On wood in Finnish
20th-century architecture

35 fi. Yaroslav Misonzhnikov. A century of wood in Finnish design

38 Aleksey Levchuk. Kingdom of plants

39 City

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

79 Countryside

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
reinforced concrete”

101 Environment

102 ru. Nikolay Belousov: architecture with one’s own hands (Drevolyutsia
festival, 2016)

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?

119 Discussion

120 Mikhail Milchik: “The death of wooden architecture in Russia is a
national tragedy”

126 Carl-Dag Lige. Modernism, wood, and Estonian architecture in the 1930s

131 Competitions

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

174 Catalogue


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Opening Week of the 5th Architecture Biennale will take place from September 11th – 15th, 2019 in multiple venues in the heart of Tallinn. Dedicated to the theme “Beauty Matters: The Resurgence of Beauty”, the international architecture festival, organised by the Estonian Centre for Architecture and curated by Dr. Yael Reisner, celebrates the aesthetic experience in architecture, after almost 80 years of cultural bias.

The only foreigner to take part in the series of architecture talks entitled ‘Genius loci’ (organized by Project Baltia and the ‘Novaya Gollandiya: cultural urbanization’ project) was the Finnish theoretician Juhani Pallasmaa. Russian readers know Pallasmaa from his book ‘The thinking hand. Existential and embodied wisdom in architecture’, which is now a bibliographical rarity. Here Marina Nikiforova talks to Finland’s principal architect-thinker.

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