T H E   A R C H I T E C T S

"International" underpinnings | Introduction to Finland
Architects and Functionalism | Architect presentation


The basis for the new architectural movement of the 1920s was the development of new structural and material technologies, which enabled not only a proper visual and functional realization of the Modernist ideas and ideals, but also made the designs suitable for mass-production and international adaptation around the world, hence the term "Internationalism".

Although there had already been a number of notable buildings made earlier that could fit the mould of Internationalist (or Modernist) ideas and technological prowess (like some industrial facilities or some of the new steel-framed American skyscrapers), the use of ornamentation or other decorative motifs, or the use of themes from earlier architectural styles "disqualify" them as true Modernist works. Some of the earliest European examples that are unmistakeably touched by the hand of Modernism are, for example, the Fagus Shoe-Last Factory in Germany (Walter Gropius and Adolf Meyer, 1910) and the white-stuccoed, unornamented Steiner House in Austria (Adolf Loos, 1910).

Some of the most notable developers of the Modernist architecture theories in 1920 were Walter Gropius and Ludwig Mies van der Rohe (both influential at the Bauhaus art and architecture school in Dessau, Germany, running from the mid-1920s onward), Le Corbusier, the Swiss-born architect who had written several books about the theme since the early 1920s and others, like Alvar Aalto in Finland, Wells Coates in England and Giuseppe Tarragni in Italy.

It was perhaps Le Corbusier's "Five Points of a New Architecture" of 1926 that, along with his works, had the greatest effect on new Modernist projects. The "points" were:

1) reinforced concrete column frame
2) flat roof with a terrace
3) free interior plan
4) horizontal strip windows
5) composition of the freed facade
He also suggested the visual equality of all parts of a building, with no front or back, and the use of open two-story halls to connect different levels. Use of ramps was also another integral part of his thinking. His Villa Savoye (1928-31) at Poissy-sur-Seine in France is perhaps the best-known adaptation of the "Five Points".


The new style of Functionalism was first mentioned in Finland in 1926 when the architect Alvar Aalto wrote about the influence of Le Corbusier on his architecture. In 1927 he and Erik Bryggman presented the first Finnish design with Functionalist themes, the competition entry for the Vaasan Kauppiaiden Oy office building.

In 1928, through a lecture given by Swede Sven Markelius and several writings, Functionalism became well-known among Finnish architects. The same year, Aalto travelled to Holland and France to study the new architecture, Bryggman and Ahonen went to see the new German apartment production and P.E. Blomstedt went to the Pressa Exhibition in Cologne, Germany. Subsequently, the competition entries of the time showed strong Functionalist influence: Bryggman's Kotkan Rauta Oy Building and the headquarters for Suomi Insurance Co., the Pohja Insurance Co. Building by Kallio, Ekelund and Björk, the design by Aalto and Bryggman for the summer villa for magazine Aitta and Aalto's design for the Helsinki Stadium. At the time, also Aalto's plans for the Turun Sanomat newspaper, the first Functionalistic building in Finland, were completed.

The first work to be realized was the design by Aalto and Bryggman for the 1929 Turku Fair (city's 700th anniversary exhibition), partly based on the plans for the Stockholm Fair, which was held the next year and was maybe the single most important factor in rooting Modernism to the Nordic countries. The Turku fair was notable not only for its use of standardized building elements but also for the open plan of the exhibition area (designed by Bryggman). Also Aalto's two first Functionalistic buildings, the so-called standardized rental apartment block and the Turun Sanomat newspaper building were completed, both in Turku. At the same time Aalto took part in the activity of CIAM, the international architect congress. All in all, it can be said that whereas Modernism was introduced in Finland at the same time as in Sweden and Norway, there was a lag of a few years as compared to the Central Europe.

In the late-1920s Germany became the most important source of influence for development, but the ideas for Functionalistic dwellings and housing developments were at the time too advanced for the political and social climate in Finland. Not until the late-1930s and after the war could a larger-scale housing reform be carried out.


As always, the new ideas were more easily embraced by the younger architects, who readily switched to Functionalism and used it in their works. The older architects of the Jugend/National-romantic era (like Eliel Saarinen (the Helsinki Railway Station and the 1922 Chicago Tribune competition) and Johan Sigfrid Sirén (the Parliament building in Helsinki)) were usually more "bound" to the heavy Classicism, although some of them supported the Functionalistic ideas. A conflict between the traditional and modern schools of design was evident in 1929-1931, when both Aalto and Sirén aspired for the seat of the professor of architecture at the Technical University in Helsinki -- ultimately, Sirén was chosen. He was also the chairman of the SAFA (Architect Association) during these three years. The authority of the older generation with both the real-world opinion and the SAFA made the developers wary and slow to choose Functionalistic designs over more traditional ones. Throughout the 1930s, a Classistic school of design co-existed with Functionalism.

Not only the age difference of designers and their interests, but also the differing attitude toward Functionalism in cities could affect the fate of a design. Turku, for example, supported the new movement from the start, likewise to Viipuri, whereas in Helsinki, the capital, attitudes were more reserved, partly due to the power held by the traditional-minded architectural authorities there.

The Modernist influences came from the other Nordic countries and the Central Europe, mainly Germany -- although Soviet Union and its Constructivist architects were just over the border, the poor connections there led to the Russian influences coming through Germany and Holland. The good travel connections and architectural literature allowed a free and up-to-date exchange of thoughts and ideas. Although echoes of criticism towards Modernism in Germany reached also Finland in the early 1930s, the new movement, paradoxically, reached its full popularity only after it had been banned by the totalitarist regimes in Europe. The economic depression in the early 1930s nearly ceased all new construction, but when the situation improved the new style was uniformly accepted as the new language of contemporary architecture.


Alvar Aalto (1898-1976)
The first Finnish architect to "convert" into Functionalism from Classicism and one who avidly studied and relayed the latest in the international development in Modernism. The figurehead of Finnish Functionalism both home and abroad for the whole of 1930s. Although never totally a "cubist", adopted a less strict style for his works in the 1940s. The chairman of the SAFA for 15 years. Works of the era include the Turun Sanomat Building (1928-1930), the Paimio Sanatorium (1929-1933), the
Viipuri Municipal Library (1927-1935) and the New York World's Fair Pavilion (1939).

Erik Bryggman (1891-1955)
Along with Aalto, in the van of adopting Functionalism. Worked with Aalto in the first stages of introduction of the style to Finland, and similarly moved towards a more "organic" and softer expression by the 1940s. Works of the era include the Antwerp Fair Pavilion (1930), the Åbo Akademi Library (1933-1935) and the Vierumäki Sports Academy (1933-1936).

P.E. (Pauli Ernesti) Blomstedt (1900-1935)
The architect who maybe more than anyone else brought forward the social issues of the movement and diligently wrote about architecture and arts in general. Works of the era include the Kotkan Suomalainen Säästöpankki bank (1934-1935), the Hotel Pohjanhovi (1935-1936) and the Kannonkoski Church (1933-1938).

Hilding Ekelund (1893-1984)
An architect and the editor of the "Architect" magazine in 1930-1934, who used it as a forum to publicize architectural issues as well as Functionalistic designs that had been bypassed in competitions. An advocate for Functionalistic ideas especially in dwelling. Made a large number of competition entries in the 1930s, thus an influential figure in par with Aalto and Bryggman. Vice-chairman of the SAFA. Works of the era include the Finnish Embassy in Moscow (1935-1939), the Olympic Village residential area (1939-1940 with Martti Välikangas, after that continued the project alone), the Helsinki Velodrome (1938-1940) and the Rowing Stadium (1940).

Erkki Huttunen (1901-1956)
The chief architect of the S.O.K. co-op design branch since his joining in 1928 and in head of the branch since 1939. Along with the larger volumes and warehouses, he also designed several shop buildings for rural areas and in general held very tight rein on the designing of these stores, dubbed "Huttunen's shoeboxes". Left the S.O.K. in 1941 and later acted as the chairman of the national Building Board. Works of the era include the S.O.K. Rauma Office and Warehouse (1930-1931), the
S.O.K. Viipuri Flour Mill and Warehouse (1930-1932), the S.O.K. Sortavala (1931, built 1939) and the Kotka town hall (1932).

Uno Ullberg (1879-1944)
A Viipuri-born architect who was one of the most notable architects not only in Viipuri, but also nationwide. Was instrumental in introducing Functionalism to Viipuri and acted as the Viipuri city architect in 1932-1936. Moved then to Helsinki where he became the head of the architectural bureau of the National Board of Health. Works of the era include the
Viipuri Art Museum and Drawing School (1930), the Viipurin Panttilaitos Oy Building (1931), the Viipuri Provincial Archives (1933) and the Viipuri Hospital Maternity and Womens' Wards (1937).

Ragnar Ypyä (1900-1980)
Another influential architect in Viipuri, who designed several buildings himself, some with his wife Martta Martikainen-Ypyä (1904-1992). Was the Viipuri city architect in 1936-1939, after Ullberg left the post. Works of the era include the
Viipuri College of Commerce and Navigation (1938).







lo-go © e t dankwa 2 February 2000