Helsinki

In Mr. Aalto's studio there is a model of the two seminaries and the library building. I took pictures of this model. In due time I will get them developed and in the Fathers' Recreation Room. I was shown a later set of plans than the one sent to us. There were actually very few changes. The circulation librarian's office was moved to the right hand side of the control area near the browsing room. Certain areas are being re-studied.

We discussed at length the problems of the library building, roadway difficulties, our aversion to a road behind the monastery, our concept of the separation of College, Theology and High School. From this discussion the limitations of our building site and our concept of our school organization became somewhat clearer to Mr. Aalto's staff. I again assured them that the over-all planning would not affect the library site chosen by Mr. Aalto. I expressed Father Abbot's doubts about the placement of the classroom building in the light of our thinking about areas for different units of our school.

Mr. Aalto's office chief is a Kaarlo Leppanen. Eric Vartianinen works directly under him. Eric is assisted in this project by John Ridgewell, an English architect. Since the beginning of the year Eric has been giving his full time to our project. He will continue to do so until the building is finished. Everything is subject to Mr. Aalto's review at every major decision. As the building progresses Mr. Aalto more closely supervises its growth. He has at the beginning given a sketch of its major features and design.

The office staff respect our feeling of privacy on the East side or behind the monastery. They agree that this is as it should be. They all agree in principle that the "academic" side on the North should be quiet side. Mr. Leppanen was very frustrated that having such a potential quiet area for our academic buildings we should cut the landscape in precisely this area. "What is more important, the library or da milk"? after reviewing the different possibilities of access to the elevated kitchen area, the steepness of the grade from the North side, the feeling of privacy on the back or East side, he agreed that perhaps "da milk" was more important.

This placement of the library and the classroom was finally outlined, suject of course to Mr. Aalto's review. The library building will be moved in toward the hill almost to the point of the sidewalk. It will be closer to the sidewalk than the Major and not so far as the Minor. The classroom building will be in line with the press building and behind the Minor seminary.

There will be an overhang on the library building serving as a covered walkway between the two buildings and from the point of design pulling the two buildings together. The Church and the seminaries plus library will then take on a new visual relationship.

There will be a terrace around the building for an ambulatory. This will be followed out in design with careful attention to shrubbery to preserve continuity of the hillside by hiding the dividing thrust of the line of the road. They were much concerned about the feeling or aesthetic sense of the quiet area and involvement with the landscape spread out below.

The site and the magnificent view are elements of primary importance in the placement of the building. They would have preferred to place the building slightly out and on the hillside for the sake of involvement in the landscape. The quiet, natural landscape unbroken by the thrust of a roadway figures in their thinking.

I mentioned that comments had been made that the most beautiful aspect of the building will not be prominent since it is on the North side. They were pleased that we liked the architecture. They then added that the outside was because of the inside. It is the interior beauty of the space they are controlling which gives form to the outside.

The idea of a "view" for a visiting motorist, or a crow's nest type of vantage point from the top of the building met with looks of incomprehension. The architecture invites and directs one to explore the beauties of the site. The ambulatory will direct one to the relationship of architecture and site. The viewer will then experience personal involvement in the quiet natural landscape and panorama.

This is how Aalto approaches the problem, and his thinking about the space in the building. A person entering the library will (on a clear day) see the most majestic elements of our view framed in the picture window of the browsing room. This will include the valley below and the Cascade Range crowned with Mt. Hood. Proceeding from this point, a person will enter a pleasant controlled space with an emphasis on quiet and disengagement.

As Mr. Aalto says, he is always in the agony of doubt and uncertainty until he sees the final product, until he sees, "if it works."

There will be windows in the closed carrels. The closed carrels will be worked organically into the periphery or outside wall area. They did not understand that these closed carrels would have ceilings closed as well as closed wall.

More >>