05 July 2009


I have just returned from a five day trip to Finland where I met up with my good friends Amanda and Ben. Amanda is half Finnish and organized a wonderful stay for us in Tampere (Tammerfors)
, a city of about 210,000 people in southern Finland. I really enjoyed Tampere- there is something about the scale of the city and the proximity to lakes Näsijärvi and Pyhäjärvi that made me feel immediately comfortable. The city manages to feel like a small town and a good sized urban environment simultaneously. There are many red brick, adaptively reused buildings lining the Tammerkoski, remnants of Tampere's large-scale industry. The photo above is the view of Pyynikki Park from the observation tower, overlooking Lake Näsijärvi and Tampere. After climbing the tower we had a traditional Finnish donut, munkki (heaven!), coffee and milk in the sunshine.

Amanda's friend Timo takes us across lake Näsijärvi in his boat, to his 100 year old cabin on Anttinsaari. After three trips to the sauna and the lake, a game of cards and grilled dinner I feel totally relaxed.

Squeaky dessert.
A traditional Northern Finnish dessert: Leipäjuusto with lakka hillo. This is a bread cheese served with a cloudberry jelly. The dessert really squeaks as you chew. The milk is curdled and then either baked or grilled, which gives the cheese the dark dots on top.

Amanda & Ben relax outside the condo, next to Tammerkoski, with a few bottles of wine, strawberries and chocolate, Salmiakki, Dooley’s, and Lapponia.

Finland = Marimekko!

(image from http://www.docomomo-fi.com/selection/pietila-tampere.gif)

We visited a great project: the Kaleva Church by architects Raili and Reima Pietilä. The church is very beautiful, a tall concrete interior (30 meters) with strong vertical lines of light. From a publication I picked up at the church:

"The basic atmosphere of the nave is created by the tall wall elements, resembling giant pillars; their finish brings to mind the coarse fibers of unbleached linen. The walls of the church hall are slide-cast concrete."

This is a view looking straight up. As Amanda pointed out during our visit, the space certainly feels 'heavenly', lifting the visitor up to the sky.

We arrive back in Helsinki on Friday, July 3. The weather is cool at 18-20C- almost 10C cooler than Oslo. Although we traveled out of the train station on Tuesday, the glass roofed area by Eliel Saarinen has a totally different feel bathed in sunlight. I really enjoyed walking through Helsinki- the Esplanade Park is a great promenade and in general there are well connected and dedicated pedestrian/cyclists routes.

Once in Helsinki (Helsingfors in Finnish) we set off for a hostel on Katajanokka. On the way, however, we spotted a cool, old brick hotel and decided to check it out. The hotel turned out to be a former County Jail- now adaptively reused as a hotel with a restaurant and conference facilities. I couldn't manage to turn this down. Portions of the building are protected by the National Board of Antiquities: the garden walls, exterior building walls and central hallway. These are all preserved almost in their original form. The cell wings, where we stayed, were built around 1888. With 164 cells, the county prison received approximately 40% of all the prisoners landing in Finnish prisons. The hotels rooms combine usually three cells: two for the sleeping space, one for the bathroom. The rooms have high arched windows, with one newly punched at waist level.

We visited the KIASMA Museum of Contemporary Art by Steven Holl. This entry space is really wonderful, but I was underwhelmed by the overall form, exterior entry sequence, exhibition spaces and the circulation in general.

Next we visited one of my favorite pieces of architecture from the trip: the Temppeliaukion kirkko, in the Töölö neighborhood. The church was designed by brothers Timo and Tuomo Suomalainen and opened in 1969. The church is beautiful: nestled into the ground and rough rock, opened to light from above from a glazed dome. My good friend Amanda was baptized here and her parents married in the church as well.

What would a trip to Finland be without a little Aalto?

The wonderful Karl Fazer Cafe. Thanks to Fazer I am now addicted to Dumle Original : Soft toffee covered with milk chocolate. I bought two large boxes.


  1. Nice to learn more about Finnland.

  2. you know toffee and caramel are like my favorite things, right?

  3. oops, it calls me dirtbird! haha, that's me, charla... so now you know... and knowing is half the battle.

  4. I miss Suomi SOOOO much! Thanks for the narrative and images. Very beautiful, naturally. You should stay in Suomi all the rest of your travels just for my own personal amusement! I'd be most greatful of course...