Saturday, 10 March 2012

Aalto in Dudeson Town

Last Sunday we drove to a family gathering at my sister’s in Seinäjoki, a country town in western Finland in the province of Southern Ostrobothnia. It is also known as the hometown of the crazy Dudesons stunt group that has been conquering the world with their TV shows in recent years.

The event was my niece’s Confirmation or ‘Affirmation of Baptism’. She had just returned from a one-week camp culminating her confirmation classes, which are taken here the year you will be 15. The youngest of the next generation in my family was now grown-up enough to have her first Communion.

As usual, the ceremony was incorporated into the Sunday service meaning that we attended the mass in the extraordinary Seinäjoki church built some 50 years ago but still feeling most modern. As the area is famous for its vast flatness and as the bell tower is the shape of a high stylized cross, the church is called The Cross of the Plains or Lakeuden Risti. It was designed by Alvar Aalto, a fellow Ostrobothnian and one of the greatest pioneers in modern architecture and design.

I believe it was Jarppi of the Dudesons who was once talking about his hometown and wondering why on earth anyone would want to design a church that looks like a coffin. You must agree there is a certain similarity from the outside but the resemblance would have been rather striking had the parish afforded to realize Aalto’s original plan to use black granite as the exterior material.

The inside, however, is totally different bearing no likeness whatsoever to an oppressing closed space. The interior is brilliantly white and thanks to the high windows very bright. The building is also positioned so that the sun will be shining inside during services, which we experienced firsthand.

Also here Aalto’s architecture followed the holistic approach so that he designed everything from door handles, light fittings and benches to textiles and communion vessels. There is nothing extra distracting your attention but everything pleases your eyes.

The terracotta floor and the wooden benches give some warmth to the interior. The brass chandeliers, the simple wooden altar cross and the white marble of the altar and flooring around the altar provide solemnity and grandeur. It is a place most suitable for worship as well as concerts, such as that of The King’s Singers we attended there a few years ago.

In addition, Alvar Aalto designed several other buildings for the administrative and cultural centre of Seinäjoki also called the Aalto Centre, including the town hall, library and theatre buildings. It was freezing so this time I only took a couple of photos of the town hall by which our car was parked. I’m hoping we will be attending another family reunion in Seinäjoki in the summertime in the not too distant future so that I can shoot the other buildings, too.

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