Tag: finland

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Alvar Aalto: the great architect of the Santa Claus village  

Who was Alvar Aalto?  

Hugo Alvar Henrik Aalto (3rd February 1898 – 11th May 1976) born in Kuortane, Finland was a Finnish architect and designer. His work includes architecture, furniture, textiles and glassware, as well as sculptures and paintings. The span of his career, from the 1920s to the 1970s, is reflected in the styles of his work, ranging from Nordic Classicism of the early work, to a rational International Style Modernism during the 1930s to a more organic modernist style from the 1940s onwards. 

Early life –  

Aalto completed his basic education in 1916, and started taking drawing lessons from a local artist. In 1916 he enrolled to study architecture at the Helsinki University of Technology. However, his studies were interrupted because he went to fight in the Finnish civil war. Later, he continued his education, graduating in 1921. In the summer of 1922 he began military service, finishing at Hamina reserve officer training school, and was promoted to reserve second lieutenant in June 1923. In 1923, he opened an architectural office in Jyvaskyla under the name ‘Alvar Aalto, Architect and Monumental Artist’.   

Lapland during WW2 –  

In the 1930s, Rovaniemi was a quiet trading town of around 6,000 people until Russia invaded in 1939. The Finns fought off their aggressors in the brutal winter war of 1939-40, then allied with Germany for protection from further Russian incursions. The Germans created a base in Rovaniemi, doubling the population and built an air field and barracks, which would then become Santas official airport and Santa Claus village.  

Once the Germans left in 1944, they burned Rovaniemi to the ground, they destroyed 90% of the town.  

Rebuilding Rovaniemi, Lapland –  

Aalto was commissioned by the Association of Finnish Architects to reconstruct the town in 1945. He saw the burned town as an opportunity. Aalto had the genius idea to have a town shaped like a reindeer. The central Rovaniemi is wrapped inside the reindeer’s head, with the Keskuskenttä sports stadium as the eye. Roads leading north, west and south make up the antlers. 

Photo: Visit Rovaniem

In June 1950, Eleanor Roosevelt wanted to visit the Arctic Circle, so the Finns built a log cabin near Rovaniemi airport in a week, furnished with chairs designed by Aalto. The cabin because a tourist attraction and a tourism grew Rovaniemi was rebuilt.  

He designed three main buildings for the towns centre:  

  • A concert hall  
  • A town hall  
  • And a library, which is one of his finest works  

He also built a small section of houses in the suburbs, a private home and a commercial block all inspired by Frank Lloyd Wright’s design style.  

Santa Claus Village –  

Local entrepreneurs created the Santa Claus Village when more visitors were coming to Rovaniemi to see the arctic circle. A rural-style wooden village was created around Eleanor Roosevelt’s cabin, offering shops, reindeer rides, a Santa, and a post office so visitors could send letters from the Arctic Circle. This is where every letter addressed to Father Christmas ends up – around 700,000 a year. 

Image: TripAdvisor
Architecture & Building

Learn all about Arctic architecture this winter 

The extreme weather in the arctic regions cause a range of design and planning challenges. For example: the cold temperature, structural problems, transportation, the high standards for materials, and resource limitations.  

Tips for designing, operating and maintaining buildings and systems in cold climates –  

  • The colder the climate, the more important it is to keep your equipment sheltered from the weather.
  • Avoid or minimise any external service pipes because they will freeze.  
  • Windblown snow has the consistency similar to sand. So, this requires special design techniques to keep it from getting into the HVAC systems.  
  • Place air vents in locations that will avoid snow drifts and blockages.  
  • Use prefab materials  

Building green – 

Since in the Arctic Region the effects of climate change are amplified and lead to global consequences, governments and international organizations are developing solutions to promote sustainable constructions. Green buildings provide benefits from an economic and social perspective, through lower building costs and improved comfort of their occupants.  

Building houses in the arctic –  

Many people in the arctic today live in modern towns and cities. People work in the arctic, extracting oil and gas beneath the permafrost, conducting research or working in tourism.  

Permafrost is very challenging to build on. Which is why houses where permafrost is present are built on stilts. This is to keep the permafrost from melting under them. While it is frozen it provides the house with a stable foundation. When the ground thaws, it can cause the building to shift or even collapse. Many houses are elevated on steel piles driven into the bedrock to keep the heat inside the home from going into the frozen ground.  

Houses in the north are often very different from the south. Northern houses will often have the bedrooms downstairs and the common areas upstairs. Heat rises so rooms closer to the ground are cooler, while upstairs the living areas capture and retain the heat in the winter.  

Windows are also an important factor when it comes to homes in polar regions. You want to make sure you place the windows in areas that have a positive impact. The placement of the window is important because you will get much needed sunlight in the winter but won’t be roasting in the summer.  

Here are some examples of architecture in the arctic –  

Arctic tree house hotel, Finland –  

This hotel in Finland was designed by Studio Puisto and it took inspiration from Nordic nature and culture. The timber structures are covered in wood and are carefully designed to be comfortable even in the winter months. All of the structures were fully constructed inside, right down to the internal surfaces and fixtures. They were then transported to the site and was lifted onto support pillars.  

Photographs:Marc Goodwin

Svart Hotel, Norway –  

The Svart Hotel is planned to be constructed at the base of Norway’s Almlifjellet mountain. Designed by international architecture, landscape architecture, and interior design firm Snohetta, the Svart Hotel gets its name from the nearby Svartisen glacier. The Norwegian hotel is being planned as modern sustainable architecture, with extensive research having gone into energy-efficient construction and operation. Snohetta even claims that the ring-shaped hotel will in-fact be energy positive – meaning it will produce more energy than it consumes. By mapping the movement of the sun’s ray, the circular structure design includes solar panels that would provide optimum levels of light throughout the day all year long. 

SVART – Photo credit Snøhetta Plompmozes MIRIS