the red paintings

October 11, 2011 § 1 Comment

“I will only look at the red paintings”

This quote comes from my incredibly inspiring and quirky Danish architectural history professor.  He says that to really experience a place (like a musuem) you must focus on one thing (like the red pictures) or you will see so much that you cannot absorb anything.

This was my motto for the past week while I traveled through Sweden and Finland.

Did I succeed?


There are too many beautiful colors in the world to only focus on one.

Enjoy the rainbow.

After an early flight Monday morning, we dropped our bags and headed to Gamla Stan, Stockholm’s medieval city center.  The street alleys here are the narrowest you will find in all of medieval Europe.

I spent the day wandering through Stockholm, the new and old, and ended the evening with a traditional dinner of herring and potatoes.  Dessert? A BOWL of hot cocoa.  The cozy cafe we found served the best hot cocoa I have ever experienced.

An afternoon was spent at The Woodland Cemetery (Skogskyrkogården) exploring the relation of site, nature and the cycle of life.  Designed by Sweden’s renowned architects, Gunnar Asplund and Sigurd Lewerentz, the cemetery’s most important characteristic is the landscape.  Design and construction started in 1917 and finished in the 1940s and is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Another project by Asplund, Stockhom’s Stadsbiblotek.  The library is Scandinavia’s first public library that allowed the public to browse books on their own. The main space was the silo that was wrapped in colorful book bindings.  The hour we had to visit here was simply not enough!

Wednesday evening we took a cruise ship (The Cinderella) across the Baltic Sea from Stockholm,Sweden to Turku, Finland.  Let your imagination run wild:  30 college students on a cruise ship with a full buffet of food and alcohol.  Did I mention the casino, dance club (full of old folks) and karaoke bar?

Once in Turku we boarded a bus and had plenty of sights along the way.  Here we stopped at Chapel of the Holy Cross in Turku by Pekka Pitkänen, a contemporary funeral chapel.  The chapel is simply constructed by two materials: concrete and light.  Ironically, the duo of materials made a spectacular warm interior.

The highlight of Finland was definitely Alvar Aalto.  Aalto is Scandinavia’s most famous architect and my favorite architect. Aalto began designing in the 1920s until his death in 1976.  In Helsinki we were able to indulge in Aalto’s designs.  I got to experience his personal home, studio, Paimio Sanatorium,  Otaniemi Technical University and Akateeminen Kirjakauppa, just to name a few.  For a girl in love with natural wood and playful uses of light, I was drunk of Aalto’s designs.

(I had to include a rainbow somewhere!)

I got to experience my first Steven Holl design at Kiasma Museum of Contemporary Art.  Holl is one of America’s most famous architects known for his use of light, color, curves and crazy watercolors.

On the final afternoon we were given time to explore Helsinki.  In a mad dash across the city, we explored The Rock Church.  The church is carved out a huge block of granite right in the middle of Helsinki.  The cavity is covered by a giant copper coiled dome.  They literally stuck a ton of dynamite in a rock and blasted it apart to make the space.


Scandanavia is absolutely beautiful right now.  The autumn colors are so vibrant I could not believe it was real.  I talked about the colors so much a friend suggested they start a drinking game every time I mention the autumn leaves.  Oops.

As you can see, I could not just look at the red paintings.

I am still working on the art of being an architectural tourist and look forward to a future frenzy of travels.

You can bet there are some watercolors coming from the trip, so check back on Wednesday!


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