Winners chosen for Alvar Aalto museum extension but told to improve their design

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A group of young Finnish architects have won a competition to integrate two museums by Modernist architect Alvar Aalto – but have been told their design needs "a lot of development".

Sini Rahikainen, Hannele Cederström, Inka Norros, Kirsti Paloheimo and Maria Kleimola were awarded first place in the competition, winning €14,000 (£10,700).

Named Silmu, the Finnish word for a leaf bud, their proposal is to join the two building with a curving courtyard extension.

But a statement from the competition jury states that the design requires significant revision to overcome functional weaknesses before becoming a feasible scheme.

"The courtyard solution raises conflicting feelings," they said in a statement. "As an idea and in its design it is a beautiful, integral part of the totality, but both technically and functionally it is extremely challenging."

The jurors also described the scheme as "a diamond in the rough".

"As the pseudonym of the entry suggests, the gentle form is superbly sensitive and powerful at the same time. It is memorable and structures the new architecture to specifically suit this location," they explained.

Silmu by Sini Rahikainen, Hannele Cederström, Inka Norros, Kirsti Paloheimo, Maria Kleimola

"The simple, flat-roofed shape of the extension settles unostentatiously into its location," they added. "The curved forms of the interior can be sensed through the minimalist glass facade."

Aalto designed the Alvar Aalto Museum and the Museum of Central Finland for his hometown of Jyväskylä beteeen the 1950s and 70s. They host a collection of architectural plans and Scandinavian Modern furniture designs by the architect, as well as local history exhibits.

The proposed transparent structure distinguishes itself from the style of the two museum buildings, and the primary area of the extension is set below ground to reduce its visual impact. Here the pair of existing buildings will be connected by a basement cafe.

"Its lightness is in appropriate contrast to the museum buildings, making the extension stand out as a new layer and not fusing together the museums into a single mass," said the jury.



"The decisive factor in the scheme is the beautifully curved line that calmly and naturally finds its place."

Renderings show a heavily planted ground-level courtyard at the centre of the building – a feature the jury recommends replacing with a glass-covered and heated space that could be used for events and performances.

"As an exterior space it is should be developed into a form that is less in a natural state – the idea of thriving wild greenery in such a space is not credible," they added.

The announcement was made by competition organisers the Alvar Aalto Foundation and the City of Jyväskylä on 3 February – the date of Alvar Aalto's birthday.

The late Aalto is one of the most famous Finnish architects and designers in history. He set up furniture company Artek with his wife Aino Aalto in 1935. Among the company's best-known and much replicated designs is the three-legged Model No 60 stool.

The Modernist architect died in 1976. In 2014, the Vitra Design Museum in Weil am Rhein hosted a major retrospective exhibition of his work.

A restoration of Aalto's Viipuri Library in Vyborg, Russia, received the World Monuments Fund/Knoll Modernism Prize for preservation award the same year.

Silmu by Sini Rahikainen, Hannele Cederström, Inka Norros, Kirsti Paloheimo, Maria Kleimola
Site plan – click for larger image
Silmu by Sini Rahikainen, Hannele Cederström, Inka Norros, Kirsti Paloheimo, Maria Kleimola
Ground floor plan – click for larger image
Silmu by Sini Rahikainen, Hannele Cederström, Inka Norros, Kirsti Paloheimo, Maria Kleimola
Roof plan – click for larger image
Silmu by Sini Rahikainen, Hannele Cederström, Inka Norros, Kirsti Paloheimo, Maria Kleimola
Section – click for larger image

egg-shaped courtyard

  • MR

    The jury selects a project that needs a lot of development and will be very challenging, unfeasible as it is. Is that what they mean?

    On top of that, they suggest to cover the main part of the scheme, the courtyard, which is surrounded by the ramp, which in my opinion is a key aspect of the proposal.

    I don’t get it.

    • spadestick

      SANAA at a huge discount.

      • John

        Indeed.

  • whatever

    Already seen by Japanese architects. Boring as it is visually, it is also not an improvement of this space. Everyone is in the jury these days and that is the main problem of any competition!

  • Valentino

    A frameless curvy huge glass box and a very small courtyard with luxurious green vegetations in Finland? I’m sorry for Alvar Aalto.

    • L__S

      Me too.

  • L__S

    May I add that the project overlaps the available construction site, which is how they were able to integrate a courtyard; that it seems is not as subjective as other remarks the jury may have presented.

    • this is not here

      What’s the Finnish word for cheating? It is a disgrace considering that without this overlap, the scheme is very different: the open garden is too small, ramps too short to make for the height difference and direct access from cafe relocated.

      I hope contenders can syndicate and at least get a re-run of the shortlist. This is so wrong.

  • guest

    Functionally: what about the bookshop? Two circular low tables with a couple of books? That’s all? Energetically: a suicide!