Alvar Aalto Paimio Sanatorium

 

This small exhibition - described by Designmuseum Danmark as a "pop-up exhibition" - is based around two chairs from the permanent collection - Armchair No 42 and the Paimio Chair - also known as The Ring Chair - designed by Alvar Aalto and both used in the Paimio Sanatorium. The hospital in south-west Finland designed by Aalto was built specifically for the treatment of patients with tuberculosis - and was completed in 1933.

The chairs are displayed with historic photographs and copies of drawings that have been selected to show how important the hospital was and to put those two chairs in context.

Aalto was born in February 1898 so he was four years older than Arne Jacobsen. The exhibition does not compare directly the work of the two architects but there are marked and very important similarities. They grew up and then studied as architects in a period of massive social, political and economic changes in Europe and in a period that saw rapid advances in technology and industrial production that had a huge impact on architecture and furniture design. Political changes were more dramatic for Aalto because Finland only emerged as a nation, independent from both Sweden and Russia, in 1918 after a revolution.

 

Both architects, through the 1920s and through their first commissions, absorbed and readily adapted their designs to building in the relatively new material of concrete and the new techniques of construction that went with that material … so generally buildings with piers in concrete that supported concrete floors and, as a consequence, with freedom to experiment with external and internal walls that were no longer load bearing and with few restrictions in terms of height in buildings that could be constructed quickly.

Crucially, both architects worked on all aspects of a project … so not just the plan and structure of a building but all details of windows, door handles, light fittings and, for both men, designs for furniture.

They each achieved a uniform aesthetic in their buildings, and that was important, but it was also driven by the need for efficiency and an attempt to rationalise construction and manage costs - to produce as much as possible off site and to reduce the number of variations and options for the same reasons … so what became important was how they put together the parts and that was determined by function and not a hierarchy of fittings as in so many public and domestic buildings before the 20th century.

 

Here, in this exhibition, the two chairs show how Aalto was at the forefront of technical developments in furniture manufacture. His grandfather was a forester and taught at the Evo Forest Institute south of Tampere and Aalto himself developed a specific technique of cutting down into a length of squared-off timber, interlayering with thin slips of wood inserted into the cuts and with glue and steam bending and formed the timber for the frame for chairs and tables and other furniture.

He was one of the first designers to exploit and develop the use of plywood which again was bent - rather than used as flat sheets - to create a continuous surface for the seat and back of a chair but he also extended the bend or curve of the plywood to form a rounded support for the head and a rounded support for the back of the legs.

It is important to look carefully to see how the plywood shell of the seat and back and the bent-wood frame are joined together - with lugs or tabs in strategic positions on the edge of the plywood that fit into slots in the frame - and how crossbars link the frame on each side but also support the plywood at critical points.

 

Because of its topography and climate, Finland does not have the variety of native timbers for furniture making and house building that are found in Sweden and Denmark so the form of the chairs is not an odd whim of aesthetics but was necessary to be able to use native rather than imported timber - to do what was possible with native birch - a relatively small tree.

And the design of the chairs - and the distinct features of the building - reflect the nature of the disease treated at the hospital.

Tuberculosis was a contagious disease that effected the lungs but could also infect bones and the nervous system. By the early 20th century it was the cause of death of 7,200 people a year in Finland or about 13% of mortality year on year in the country.

When the hospital opened, treatment was based around providing patients with good nutrition and bed rest in the early stages of the disease and then with sun and fresh air although bright light and noise effected many sufferers badly.

The chairs are relatively low and long so the sitting position is close to reclining and the bent-wood frame and plywood provide a level of flexibility for long periods sitting in the sun or fresh air. The construction in wood was lighter than anything comparable that used tubular steel, so the chairs could be turned easily to be angled towards the sun and they were not upholstered to reduce contamination. Note that the Paimio Chair has narrow horizontal slits cut through the head rest so that air could circulate around the face.

The first private Sanatorium in Finland was opened in 1895 and the first owned by a federation of municipalities opened in 1914 but after passing a Tuberculosis Act in 1929 eight large sanatoriums were constructed with total of 2,500 beds and Paimio was the last to be completed in 1933 for 296 beds for patients from 52 municipalities including the city of Turku with an allocation of 100 beds. Because tuberculosis was contagious, the hospitals were generally set in countryside away from towns … the Sanatorium at Paimio was 20 kilometres east of Turku set in an area of woodland.

With the discovery of anti biotics, it became possible to alleviate and then control the spread of the disease and in 1960 the sanatorium buildings were modified and converted for use as a general hospital.

 

The exhibition at Designmuseum Danmark in Copenhagen continues until 21 January 2018

 

note:

comments on this post were received today (19 February 2018) and, because these were interesting and raised some important points, it was worth posting a longer reply that has been posted on Copenhagen architecture & design news as an update

Circular Economy

 

A major exhibition at the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts Schools of Architecture, Design and Conservation to show fourteen projects that offer new solutions and strategies for the development of new sustainable materials along with the development of new technologies, the exploration of new approaches to building and construction and the recycling or re-circulation of materials.

“The conversion means that we need to work innovatively and experimentally on the development of new materials and the recycling of old ones, while also using our knowledge to create solutions that people actually want to use. That is the way we work at KADK, so our research and the skills of our graduates can play a major role in terms of giving people a better life without putting pressure on our planet.” 

Lene Dammand Lund.

 

Through the Autumn there will be a series of open seminars to “draw on knowledge and experience from some of the world’s leading architects and designers in the field of circularity, who will be invited to talk about their work.”

 

the exhibition Circular Economy continues at KADK at Philip de Langes Allé 10 in Copenhagen until 3 December 2017

 

Side by side outside - Cabinetmakers’ Autumn exhibition

 

 

This was the first day of the Cabinetmakers’ Autumn exhibition at Designmuseum Danmark.

It was raining and cold and the leaves are turning but it didn’t matter. In fact it meant I had the garden of the museum to myself. 

For me this annual exhibition - to show the work of the cabinetmakers - is always one of the best exhibitions of the year. It never fails to challenge or delight or make you look at a material or a form or a convention in a different or new way.

In a city where there is so much good architecture and so much great design, it is actually this exhibition that comes closest to summing up what this site is about - about looking at and taking photographs of and writing about those works where imagination; the ability to translate an idea into a working and feasible design; a command of the materials being used and the skill of the craftsman or the quality of manufacturing - all come together. 

A full review to follow ASAP 

 

Side by side outside continues at Designmuseum Danmark until 5 November 2017

 

KADK Afgang Sommer’17

 

This weekend is the last opportunity to see the exhibition of the projects and work of this year's graduates from the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts Schools of Architecture, Design and Conservation … a densely packed show of the talents and the phenomenal imaginations and skills of the students who have just completed their courses in Copenhagen.

There are profiles of the students and photographs and descriptions of their work on the KADK site.

The exhibition ends on 13th August. 

KADK, Danneskiold-Samsøe Alle, Copenhagen

Gade Fotografi 1917-2017

This weekend is the last chance to see the major exhibition of street photography at Øksnehallen in Copenhagen … the market hall to the west of the central railway station.

This is an extensive show in three or really four sections to show the work of the American photographer Vivian Maier along with the work of major street photographers from Europe and the States with photographs taken over the century from 1917 through to 2017 and there are two additional shows … the extraordinary photographs of men with extraordinary beards taken by Lasse Bak Mejlvang and an exhibition from Olympus under the title Perspective Playground - Experience Art Through the Lens.

DGI Byen, Øksnehallen, Copenhagen

 

Art of Many and the Right to Space

 

 

This is the exhibition that was the Danish contribution to the Venice Biennale of Architecture last year. The main section is an extensive display of architectural models from major architects and design partnerships in the country and the aim is to illustrate the importance of high-quality architecture in Denmark and, in a broader sense, the contribution of architecture to the community as a whole.

There is an important audio visual show by Jan Gehl about the work of their planning office in Copenhagen.

at the Danish Architecture Centre in Copenhagen until 1 October 2017

 

Liquid Life - Biennalen for Kunsthåndværk & Design 2017

This is the last two days of the Biennalen ... an exhibition of some of the very best of Danish craft work.

What is astounding here are those very qualities that are not normally associated with Danish design … or at least not with common preconceptions about Danish design from the late 20th century. So here there is strong, bold use of colour and texture and the exploration of ideas that challenge perceptions and preconceptions. 

The theme Liquid Life - about how precarious modern life can feel - is from a text by Zygmunt Baumann and taken from his book Liquid Life that was published in 2005.

“Liquid life is the kind of life commonly lived in our contemporary, liquid-modern society ... The most acute and stubborn worries that haunt this liquid life are the fears of being caught napping, of failing to catch up with fast moving events, of overlooking the ‘use by’ dates and being saddled with worthless possessions, of missing the moment calling for a change of tack and being left behind.”

With an amazing diversity of both materials and techniques - with works in ceramic and glass, with textiles, jewellery, furniture, book binding, fashion and photography - and with many of the artists combining several materials and in some works several specialist skills - these works are the response that these observations by Zygmunt Bauman inspired in thirty seven artists, designers and makers ........... a response and an antidote.

 

Liquid Life - Biennalen for Kunsthåndværk & Design 2017

Museumsbygningen, Kastelsvej 18, Copenhagen until 27 May 2017

 

 
 

note: select an image by clicking on it and that will take you into the gallery where the title of the work and the name(s) of the artist(s) can be found

more photographs

Ultimate Impact

 

Ultimate Impact - an exhibition curated by Tina Midtgaard of the design studio Superobjekt - explores the culture of Scandinavian design through the works of 33 artists … photographers, ceramicists, glassmakers, cabinetmakers and textile designers.

Strong visually and important as an intellectual exercise about the imagination - the artists’ and our own -  the works are arranged by five ‘phenomena’  - Fantasy, Exoticism, Silence, Ragnorak and Baroque. It is the juxtapositions of pieces and the reverberation or resonance or contrasts of colour or texture or material across the space that is important. Two works use sound and all the pieces experiment in very different ways with form and light and shadow.

This exhibition deliberately questions any lingering preconceptions about Scandinavian design and style.

As a venue, the gallery itself is dramatic, approached by a long spiral brick ramp to climb the round tower, and with the beams and posts and braces of the 17th-century space high above the church itself and, with the massive timbers painted grey and with plain white walls, the architecture provides a strong but open framework for such a complex exhibition but without competing and, with natural light from both sides, there is also the space that is essential for moving around and between the works. This, together with the high quality of the works, makes the exhibition an appropriately challenging but very rich and rewarding experience.

Ultimate Impact at Rundetaarn - The Round Tower in Copenhagen - until 2 July 2017

 

Moving Materials at the Danish Architecture Centre

 

 

An exhibition that explores the work of the Japanese architect Hiroshi Sambuichi

... an architecture that attempts to be in balance with nature and with the landscape in which the buildings are set. It requires extensive study, sometimes over a number of years, of the passage of the sun and an awareness of how natural light across the site changes through the day but there is also a deep empathy for the climate of a specific location so the effect of wind, rain and mist across the land at different points of time or season. It is those elements of climate that are the Moving Materials.

longer review

 

continues at the Danish Architecture Centre in Copenhagen until 25 June

 

Det Byggede Danmark - The Built Denmark - Part of Our Lives

 

This exhibition, created in collaboration with the Home Economics Research Center, looks at the built environment in terms of quantities and statistics rather than architecture and engineering and aesthetics. So, this is the real information about the cost of what we do and how we live and this is the information that should inform how we plan for the future … what we can do but also what we should do and what we have to do to mitigate for how we have lived up to this point.

This is the hard and unforgiving but fascinating and crucial data about the built environment and about the infrastructure of everyday life - information that a country needs to make major planning decisions for the coming decades - but that data is presented clearly and well because there has to be a general level of understanding about what and why so that there can be broad consent about how and when.

The research has been published by Boligøkonomisk Videncenter and can be ordered or downloaded in pdf format from their site set out in three books that look at

  • extent structure and value
  • quality of life residential and workplace
  • environment energy and water 

 

 

 

as text - or even as a table of numbers - the amount of water used by each person - 115 litres every day - is difficult to appreciate but set out in ranks of plastic bottles it is easier to understand and the message is clear .....

  • 8 litres incidentally
  • 10 litres cooking and drinking water
  • 14 litres laundry
  • 16 litres dishwashing and cleaning
  • 28 litres flushing toilet
  • 39 litres bath and personal hygiene

continues at Danish Architecture Centre until 2 July

 

WORKS + WORDS

At KADK on Danneskiod-Sasøes Allé in Copenhagen … an exhibition to show a wide variety of recent experiments and research projects in architecture from architects and teachers from the Royal Academy itself and from the School of Architecture in Aarhus and the School of Architecture and Design in Oslo. 

This is about research into how we can design better buildings now and in the future: “the artistic experiment is … an important cornerstone of KADK's architectural and design education and is a central part of KADK's community commitment as an educational institution. “

This is the first in what will be a biennial event and continues at KADK until 5 May 2017

unfolds

 

 

An incredible exhibition has just opened at Designmuseum Danmark in Copenhagen. 

Unfolds celebrates the 25th anniversary of the Danish Cabinetmakers’ Association with twenty five works that the museum describes as unique. The theme for the exhibition is the cube but unique barely begins to describe the ingenuity, the skill and the craftsmanship on display here that is astounding because the pieces also involve the visitor as works have to be twisted or spun or, as the title of the exhibition implies, unfolded to reveal what is inside.

the exhibition continues at Designmuseum Danmark until 14 May 2017

read more

The Danish Chair

 

Part of the collection of modern chairs at Designmuseum Danmark, has been moved into a newly refurbished space in one of the long narrow galleries in the south wing to the right of the entrance.

The new display is stunning and with each chair shown in a self-contained box and with good lighting and clear succinct labels it is possible to really appreciate each piece of furniture. The chairs are arranged on three levels … the middle row at about eye level, the lower chairs angled up and the upper tier angled down slightly so the gallery has something of the feel of a barrel shape or barrel vault and each chair is angled to optimise the view point for the visitor. Of course, there are some down sides in that it is not as easy to get a sense of the chair as a three-dimensional work but this new arrangement does let you get very close to look at details and for the middle and upper rows it is possible for the first time here to see the underside of the chairs if you are interested to see how they are constructed.

read more

The Danish Chair - an international affair Designmuseum Danmark

Johansen Skovsted Arkitekter at DAC

 

the entrance to the gallery with model of Tipperne Bird Watch Tower at a scale of 1:10

This exhibition of the work of Søren Johansen and Sebastian Skovsted is the last of a series of three exhibitions in the Dreyer Gallery at the Danish Architecture Centre that over the Autumn have focused on young architects in Copenhagen.

To quote from the pamphlet that accompanies the exhibition: "The series … will give visitors and the industry special insight into the dynamic daily practice and reality of these firms, where creativity and business savvy go hand in hand.”

Clearly, business acumen is important if an architectural practice is to succeed and expand but actually one theme that linked the three architecture studios - Johansen Skovsted, Norrøn and Sted is their strong awareness of place and and a strong empathy for nature that seems to be the starting point for all their work.

For Søren Johansen and Sebastian Skovsted, architecture "is about finding a place in the world and setting the stage for our interactions with each other ... we view architecture as a way to play with the landscapes, cities and buildings, saturated with meaning and history, that makes up the world as we know it. In construction, materials, form and space, architecture becomes the creation of the place anew ... "

 

the exhibition continues at Danish Architecture Centre in Copenhagen until 15th January 2017

Johansen Skovsted

 

Skjem Å - Pump Station North transformed as a new visitor facility 

Courtyard Nørrehus, Nørrebro, Copenhagen - many of the large older housing schemes are apartments around a large courtyard that initially had laundry drying yards, dustbins, and, in many, toilet or bath blocks, As the buildings have been upgraded and improved, many of these courtyards have been cleared or rationalised and landscaped to provide important communal garden spaces with play equipment for children, places for eating outside or, at the very least, a quiet pleasant place to look over from windows or balconies

the exhibition included portfolios of presentation drawings ... a good way for a non-professional but interested visitor to see how the schemes evolved and to see some of the technical details ... the real complexity beneath a structure that ostensibly seems quite simple or straightforward