Sunday, 29 January 2012

Jyväskylä: A bit of Aalto and light

The Aalto Hall at Jyväskylä is busy on this Sunday morning. More and more people pass through the heavy doors of Worker's Club (Työväentalo), beneath the colourful canopy. I'm not the only one enjoying a walk today although the temperature is close to -20C.
The neoclassical Worker's Club (1925) was designed by architect Alvar Aalto in his early career. The building has served not just its original purpose but also as the city theatre. These days it hosts events from concerts to parties; on this very day it welcomes a politician who is running for president in Finland's presidential election 2012 - and there are only two left in the race.
Such events can be very enlightening but there are also interesting real lights in this building. As you enter, you can spot a very decorative lamp above, right next to the cloakroom. Alvar Aalto's lamps have certainly changed their style since the 1920's.
On both sides of the stairs there is a colourful pillar, disguised as a classical vase, repeating the blue, red and gold of the canopy above the entrance.
The foyer on the next floor is airy, thanks to the height, but otherwise it is pretty narrow. The area is lit by golden, leaf-decorated chandeliers besides the light that floods in through the tall windows.
The Aalto Hall is located here on the 2nd floor of the building. Its back wall is curved and on the side of the foyer and it is filled with ornamented squares in brown and cream - again quite decorative! The lantern reminds me of the lanters that you can see above the doors of Aira building (also by Alvar Aalto), some blocks from here on Tapionkatu street.
The Aalto Hall itself is lit by star-shaped lamps high up in the ceiling. Stars for stars; the star of the event is speaking as I enter.
Inside the Aalto Hall, the curved back wall holds many small, delicate lamps that are wearing shell-shaped hats.
Presidential candidate Pekka Haavisto gives a content smile as he leaves the building for the next destination, Kuopio. I move on to Kauppakatu pedestrian street and am thankful for it being heated, part of the way, but only because it means there are no slippery bits. Otherwise, it is no joy to walk on a snowless street when you are wearing felt boots because they don't have thick soles.You can really feel how hard the asphalt is under your feet!
At Kirkkopuisto (Church Park) there is a single electricity distribution cabinet that has been touched by an artist. However, I don't think the artist had a permission to paint the happy birds on it. So far there hasn't been an art project to improve the appearance of electricity distribution cabinets in Jyväskylä, but one can always hope... In Finland, it's been done successfully at least in Turku, Tampere and Helsinki.
The Defence Corps building (Suojeluskuntatalo or Valtiontalo), another early building (1928-29) designed by Alvar Aalto was neglected for decades but it is finally being restored and it is now covered by tarpaulins.
It is nice to see that the tarpaulins feature the building itself! A drawing of the front of the Defence Corps building is depicted on Kilpisenkatu street and a smaller picture of the building (probably from the days it was planned) can be seen on the side of Vapaudenkatu street.
Back at Kirkkopuisto park, the benches do not offer a comfortable resting place for walkers. That is, unless you love to sit on a thick layer of snow (which someone has attempted to do...). I would need a sheepskin beneath me to sit here comfortably.
Further on, at the university campus, Alvar Aalto's buildings have moved on to modern times. The red brick walls are simple, with fewer details than in architect Aalto's works created in the 1920's. I'm looking at angular shapes, simple door handles, a single window peeking from the corner of the top floor of the university main building.
The university campus is covered in snow and resembles a winter wonderland. Aallonpuisto park is on the southern side of the university main building and sunlight falls here in the afternoon, thus making that the best time of the day for a visit. The footpaths are kept in good condition no matter how much snow falls from the sky. There are quite a few walkers about; the gentleman walking behind me kindly brings me the mitten I've accidentally dropped while taking photos and for obvious reasons, I'm pretty thankful! You can endure only few minutes without gloves or mittens in this temperature...

I can't use my usual shortcut from the university campus via Moirislampi pond to Voionmaankatu street (there is construction work going on) but have to taken another route to Pitkäkatu street.
The old green two-storey building on Pitkäkatu street has grown quite a few icicles that are glittering in the afternoon sun. The advertising space is empty but you can use the frame to create a momentary work of art for yourself. Just pick a spot and look what's up there!
For walks in this kind of temperature (especially when it gets colder than -10 °C), I warmly recommend traditional felt boots (hand made); they are simply the best. With a pair of woollen socks and felt boots you can walk for hours and not feel cold.

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