Red Herring

Designs on Studying the Baltic Experience

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    Suomenlinna sleeping giant

    By Bronwyn Charlton
    Apr 8, '12 12:49 PM EST

    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 his death in 1772. Based on a Star Fort style, Ehrensvärd also cunningly used the natural topography of the site to disguise underground bunkers. This makes the island look a bit like its full of troll dwellings as often you only get a glimpse of a door in an apparently grassy hillside.

    We have visited twice, and still haven't been able to see every part of this incredible military architecture in 7+ hours of exploring. The islands are host to monumental buildings of a wide variety of colors, stone work, and materials 

    as well as a warren-like network of tunnels and fortification walls:

    The low angled light of the sun in Finland lends a dramatic air to the shadows to what feels like a sleeping beast who is being run all over by little ants snapping pictures!

    The fortress changed hands from the Swedish in the 1808-09 war with Russia, when Russia was able to take the islands in a limited military engagement of only a few days. (below is a Russian Gun)

    When Finland gained its independence in 1919 the fort changed hands to the Finnish, and was at that point named Suomenlinna (it had formerly been called Sveaborg). Used as a military base, for ship building in the 1950's as part of the reparations paid to Russia after WWII (it still has ship building activity)

    and now for residential and touristic purposes. The islands have beautiful rocky shores and blue-green water.

    Now that the snow is melting we are looking forward to returning in May and looking inside more of the buildings...though we did manage to sneak into this one that was undergoing repairs:


     --- Bronwyn

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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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  • bjd80
  • Bronwyn Charlton

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