Archinect

Red Herring

Designs on Studying the Baltic Experience

  • sketchy impressions

    The more projects I visit, the more aware I become of the limitations of the camera.  Above is a sketch from a visit to Alvar Aalto's Säynätsalo Town Hall.  Getting out of the van and starting to walk around, I finally decided to do some sketching on site instead of trying to take really good pictures. 

    I started thinking about my interaction with drawing  over the last several years.  When I studied abroad with Bill Tate for a summer in Vienna, we took with us 10 rolls of Ilford HP5 black & white film, and stocked up on drawing supplies in Vienna.  For 5 weeks we lived out of our sketchbooks.  While I appreciate the photos I took during that time, the drawings are a more personal record. 

    With the camera, you control two variables : what is in the frame and how much light reaches the film (more likely the image sensor).  More often than not, the photos I think will be interesting turn out blah while the ones I don't remember taking are great.  With drawing, you have a more concious editorial role. 

    In Juhani Pallasmaa's essays, he describes the eye as a scanning mechanism.  Therefore it's possible to stand in the middle of a room with your head completely still and draw more than half of it by tracing its perimeter with your eye.

    With quick sketches, you include only what is important while the rest gets omitted.  This recording of your impression is personal in that it embodies your subconcious critique of the space. 

    Of course there are things that are best captured with the camera, at least if you are on a quick visit.  Below, for example is Laajasalo Church by Kari Järvinen and Merja Nieminen .  The filtering of light through the shades of Säynätsalo Town Hall is something best left to the camera for someone with my attention span. 

    The current role of drawing in architecture is something I think we're all confused by; a good example is the recent Is Drawing Dead? symposium.  The way we think, even the way we draw has been affected by the computer.  But there is something intuitive about drawing or building a sketch model.  Unlike working in the gravity-free, hyper-precise world of 3d digital environments, the feedback loop between pencil, paper, eye, and brain is a place where improvisation happens. 

    Perhaps sketching on location is archaic, but I can't think of a better way to personally connect with a building, space, or place. 


  • Finland East Excursion - Day 1

    This Friday, on a cold, very rainy morning, we squeezed into a 9 person van and headed North and East for a two day whirlwind tour of Eastern Finnish architecture. Our first stop was Lahti, where we looked at the Church of the Cross. Designed by Alvar Aalto, he died before it could be completed...

    Alvar Aalto's Church of the Cross to organ music, Lahti Finland



  • Beauty Minds -- The Finnish Approach

    Beauty minds -- our Professore, Matti Rautiola, called himself and fellow professor Pentti Kareoja this when describing their approach to architecture as well as to architectural education. We have been lucky to have an extraordinary cultural experience in Helsinki so far -- but not only in terms...


  • Suomenlinna sleeping giant

    Suomenlinna is a UNESCO World Heritage site in Helsinki. It is a huge fortress spanning 6 islands, built when Finland was a part of Sweden in 1748. Masterminded by Swedish Admiral Augustin Ehrensvärd (1710-72) the fort became his life's work and his vision was still incomplete at the time of...


  • Confessions -- Conversations with Pallasmaa pt. 1

    As part of our study abroad experience, our study abroad coordinator, Associate Dean Peter MacKeith has set up monthly discussion evenings with Juhani Pallasmaa -- an exceptional thinker and well known architect and author. Some of his titles include, The Eyes of the Skin: Architecture and...


  • Digitization Nation

    As part of our semester abroad we get the opportunity to design and build a chair out of bent plywood with the help of our instructor, Julie Scheu. Bent plywood is a beautiful method for furniture construction -- the simple elegance of the forms that are possible with bent plywood as well as the...


  • Light Sculpting

    As promised, here are some photos of our experiences in Rovaniemi this weekend.  The town sits at the confluence of the Kemijoki and Ounasjoki rivers, about 11km south of the Arctic Circle.  Despite the "deep cold" which frequents the area, the section of river by the town almost never...


  • The Human in the Midst

    This weekend we traveled north to the arctic circle and the city of Rovaniemi. The town planning was done by Alvar Aalto after the city was burned by the Germans on retreat from the Russian forces in WWII. Our instructor, architect Matti Rautiola, said that when he was a child every stone that...


  • Suomenlinna -- Entering Helsinki

    Welcome to Helsinki! Sunrise in the bay as we enter Finland on the overnight ferry Silja. Our first experience of the bitter cold as snow blew hard over the bow of the ship in -16 deg C weather, nevermind the wind chill. You're looking at the fort Suomenlinna (Viapori), built by the Swedish in...


  • Stockholm Whirlwind Tour

    We visited Stockholm with friends from Washu (Jenn and Alex) for a day and a half. It is truly a land filled with tall, beautiful blonds! The city was lively with activity and infinitely walkable -- its geography of 14 islands, of which 30% is parks was dynamic in its constant undulations and...


  • Moi! Terve!

    We are 2 Master of Architecture students from Washington University, St. Louis. This blog is a way for us to explore the red herrings of the architecture, art, and design world as we continue our education in a study abroad semester in Helsinki, Finland. Helsinki is the design capital of the...


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About this Blog

We are two MArch students from Washington University St Louis who are traveling for a semester abroad to Helsinki, the arctic circle, and Baltic region. Helsinki is currently the 2012 design capital and we are getting to participate in extensive design related seminars and events that we wish to blog about. We are interested in using this blog to share/explore ideas and experiences about design, art, architecture and culture as we experience it.

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Authored by:

  • bjd80
  • Bronwyn Charlton

Other blogs affiliated with Washington University in St. Louis:

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