Finland Architecture and Figurative Arts

By | December 17, 2021

Architecture. – The birth of Helsinki, which became the capital of an autonomous Grand Duchy of the Russian Empire in 1812, coincides with the birth of the Finnish nation, which conquers its complete autonomy at the end of the First World War, and reconfirms it before, during and after the second.

Between 1814 and 1918 Helsinki was designed, built and included in a large-scale master plan. By JA Eherenström and KL Engel in 1814 it receives a clear and orderly neoclassical architectural structure; in 1918 E. Saarinen integrated the urban organism into the territorial framework. These events, which mark the prehistory of the development in the modern sense of Finnish architecture, while deeply connecting the problems of architecture itself to those of a national identity to be discovered and defined, together mark the term of reference with respect to which the architectural culture of Finland is called to measure itself. For these reasons, the fundamental themes of modern Finnish architects will always revolve around the two poles of a balanced connection between city and territory, and a creative originality in the field of artistic expression. The monuments – key to this process, between the beginning of the nineteenth century and the end of the thirties of our century, are identified in the work of Engel on the nascent capital, in that of Saarinen on the development forecasts of the capital itself, in the artifacts by designers such as S. Frosterus (Stockmann department store, Helsinki), by Y. Lindegren (Olympic stadium, Helsinki), by E. Huttunen (SOK mill, Viipuri), by E. Bryggman (funerary chapel, Turku). The ensemble of these works rigorously engages Finnish architecture in the context of the most rigid rationalist methodology developed on the continent in those same years, between 1920 and 1940. This does not happen by chance, since precisely the neoclassical matrix had trained architects in a sobriety of lines that could be measured on the structural, functional and constructive data of the work. On the other hand, the contrast that similar pure stereometries establish with the natural landscape represents a taking possession of the physical space, which in turn constitutes the original and unmistakable datum that can allow, in the absence of a specific cultural tradition, a unambiguous national identification of the country. For Finland 2002, please check

It is against the backdrop of such a panorama that the overbearing personality of A. Aalto (born in Kuorbane on February 3, 1898, died in Helsinki on May 11, 1976) joins the scene.

Raised in the climate of the so-called “national-romanticism”, which attempted to affirm the autonomy of Finnish architecture through a recourse to models of rustic wooden architecture (Tampere exhibition, 1922), Aalto very early arrived at rationalism (home of the newspaper TurunSanomat, Turku, 1929-30; sanatorium, Paimio, 1933), to begin to elaborate a very personal version based on the psychological functions of the users and on the organic insertion in the landscape (library, Viipuri, 1935; villa Mairea, Noormarkku, 1939; pavilion at the universal exposition in New York, 1939). The same method and the same interests govern Aalto’s activity in the urban planning field (worker residences, Sunila, 1936-39). But it is after 1940 that the different components of Aalto’s culture come together to give life to one of the highest and most fascinating experiences that contemporary architecture has produced to date. Reinventing every single building in continuous control of the complex relationships between the building program, the construction technique, the urban or natural environment, the

The salient moments of this long exploration in the very heart of the architectural dimension of reality can be traced back, schematizing to the maximum, in the town hall of Säynätsalo (1952), in the church of Imatra (1958), in the polytechnic school of Otaniemi (1964), in the Helsinki auditorium (1962 prog.). V. Revell, A. Ruusuvuori, A. Blomstedt, E. Kräkström, A. Ervi, J. Kontio, K. Räike, K. and H. Sirén, a constellation of architects extremely skilled in the manipulation of forms and rich in a inventiveness that certainly has its roots in the Aaltian experience, but which enriches it with unprecedented connotations, crowns Aalto’s fundamental activity. Buildings such as the Bank of Lahti by Revell, the Tapiola printing house in Ruusuvuori, the cathedral of Tampere di Pietila and Paatelainen, the school of Hamina dei Sirén,

Figurative Arts. – In the Finnish art of this century we can distinguish two fundamental lines of development: the abstract one which, begun in the 1920s by E. Lydén and BJ Carlstedt, continued through S. Vanni up to the 1950s; and the figurative one represented, for example, by T. Sallinen, M. Collin and A. Cavén.

Furthermore, in the Thirties, a lyrical expressionism developed whose exponents were H. Schjerfbeck, E. Thesleff and S. Schauman, and a surrealist trend promoted above all by O. Mäkilä.

On the other hand, the geographic isolation of the country and the strong nationalistic sentiment that ensued favored the persistence of a traditional type of art. This is the case, for example, of the severe, realistic, heroically monumental art of W. Aaltonen or of landscape painting, of a romantic and expressionistic nature, which dominated the 1940s.

In the 1950s, R. Wardi and E. Thesleff painted still lifes and figures with a lyricism that is also found in A. Kanerva, whose landscapes will become more and more indefinite and atmospheric. This evolution towards an informal art also characterizes the work of A. Lucander and P. Stenius.

The Sixties opened under the sign of “concrete art”, especially by BJ Carlstedt and S. Vanni. A particular development of this trend towards geometric simplification is carried out by L.-G. Nordström with its surface compositions.

In Finland there has never been a clear separation between architecture, figurative arts and design. It so happened, for example, that an architect like A. Aalto and a designer like T. Sarpaneva worked actively and with original results in sculpture. The end of the 1960s leads to an internationalization of Finnish art.

This is the case of J. Sievänens, whose world of images is made up of expressive formalism and surrealistic ingredients. This surrealist vein is also found in original portraits of J. Linnovaara, as well as in the works of K. Lehtinen, in paintings naive A. Jaakola and in the works of K. Kaivanto: monumental figures and hands made of endless chains. E. Ruutsalo instead developed the techniques of abstract art through the experimentation of different means of expression. Pop Art led to a new realism, represented by E. Tirronen, K. Jylhä and E. Ahonen.

Among the sculptors of the last decade, we should remember K. Tapper and M. Hartman who work with roughly hewn wood and K. Pyykkö who uses polished metals, all however with a traditional awareness of the treated material.

Finland Architecture