Sunday, September 30, 2012

Temppeliaukio Church, Helsinki

This is one of our favourite buildings in Helsinki; designed by two brothers - Timo and Tuomo Suomalainen whose design preserved the existing rock bed and sunk their church building into it. This Lutheran church was completed in 1969, it was often used as a concert hall because of its excellent acoustics.

The strong colours of the pew cushions contrast the natural colours of the church and its surroundings

When we visited it; we were in a group of about 40 people whose talking quietened and gradually ceased as we entered the church through a long rock tunnel.

After we emerged at the other side of the rock tunnel, the noise level rose slightly - this is time it was not talking but quiet murmurs of wonder and admiration. There are many things to be in awe of; the solid rock walls which enclose the church hall bathed in soft light; no doubt the source of many a metaphor of religion's grounding and solidity. The skylights that ring the entire roof allows entry of soft autumn light, reinforcing the feeling of a light and floating ceiling of concentric copper bands.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Getting around in Helsinki

Helsinki has a lovely Central Park.
At first glance, it is not obvious especially at street level. But after only a day and a half of tooting about on foot and the public transport system to realize that the city centre is the tip of a nature reserve  stretches northwards as a green spine for various types of public facilities; playgrounds, riding courses, sport halls, swimming pools, ski slopes and even pet cemeteries. 
It is not possible to explore all these facilities within the two days of our "stay-over" - but the southern most tip of Helsinki's Central Park where the Olympic Stadium is accessible by tram (stop  at Oopera). From there, one travels southwards on foot to reach Finlandia Park to visit Aalto's Finlandia Hall, Holl's KIASMA and the city centre.

take the Finnair bus from the Airport - 4 Euros gets you an orienteering course as well.

everyone second person is on a bicycle - this guy helped with direction while waiting for the lights to change

..and there are clear demarcations for pedestrians and bicycles,

...which everyone abides by.

this is not Minnie Driver...

it is legal to skate on the bike lane,

and on the nearby Suomenlinna Island, there are no cars.

so the 500 or so inhabitants, bike or walk

or Nordic Walk...

but this Finnish mode of locomotion takes the cake; it's a 'strolly' used by Finnair staff to get around in the Airport
A Strolly

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Looking for Aalto

It was a good thing that our in-flight movie player failed to work in our 12 hour flight from Singapore to Helsinki because we each were given a 20 Euro voucher by Finnair, and we slept. This meant that when we arrived at 6:40 a.m. Helsinki time, we were fresh and well rested. 

Some people think that our first impression of a city depends on how and where you enter it from; on what you see at this first point of entry. But I feel that my first impression of a city depends also on the first contact we have with the locals - and within the first two hours, Helsinki came across as efficient and self confident (it is the World Design Capital of 2012) though a bit aloof. 

When the nice lady at the hotel let us check in at 10:30 in the morning, the meter went from aloof to possibly friendly but shy (or limited by lack of a common language between us). Our only word of Finnish (or more correctly, Suomi) was 'kitos' (kee-tosh) or thank you.

the Esplanade Park (Etelaesplanadi) that leads to the harbour
Sam had the foresight to order the Helsinki Card which enable us free access on an audio-guided tour of Helsinki and all forms of public transport, which included bus, trams and sea ferry. We were on the tour with an hour of check-in (the Finnish efficiency is contagious) - we were on the bus to see Helsinki's sights -  Finlandia Hall and the Sibelius Monument amongst them. The highlight for me was the Tempeliaukio Church or "the Rock Church" - carved out of and embedded in rock; by two brothers and local architects, Timo and Tuomo Suomolainen.

our breakfast room where guests are invited to pack and take away their lunch as well

streets of Art Deco buildings