Two buildings by Aarno Ruusuvuori


2006 Two buildings by Aarno Ruusuvuori«The works by the Finnish architect Aarno Ruusuvuori aspire to permanence. An unattainable yet worthwhile aim. Throughout his career Ruusuvuori tirelessly demonstrated his determination to base his works on universal values. It seems reasonable to interpret this attitude as a deliberate response to the brilliant career of the leader of modern Finnish architecture, Alvar Aalto. In an interview in 1991 shortly before his death, Ruusuvuori said it was precisely the singularity of the works by the great Finnish master that led him to take a different path based on generally applicable solutions enabling him to move beyond architectonic individuality, that is to say not to make “each building as individual as possible.”

Faced with the arbitrariness that underpins free form and makes it possible to express a multitude of contingencies stemming from either the location’s singularities, or functional requirements or the architect’s own personality, Ruusuvuori’s work was based on a modular coordination that was to considerably restrict the freedom of form Aalto so enjoyed. The module, the expression of the mathematical basis of the work, was a constant in Ruusuvuori’s oeuvre, in all likelihood due to his training alongside Aulis Blomstedt who devoted a great deal of his career to creating a modular theory based on musical harmony. Whereas the classical theory of harmonic proportions considered harmony to stem not from personal whims but from objective reasoning, it was precisely this objectivity that Blomstedt and Ruusuvuori saw in Number. They would apply it not to the proportions of the classical orders but to the system of coordinated sizes inherent in industrialized construction.

There is one important detail in Ruusuvuori’s biography that we consider decisive for understanding his work: a journey enabling him to travel around Greece, Turkey and Egypt for three months in 1955. The megalithic masses of the architecture of Ancient Egypt must have had a profound impression on Ruusuvuori, since they were going to provide a never-ending source of inspiration for creating new forms. Knowing this we can see the relationship between the church at Hyvinkää and the pyramids at Giza, or the less obvious link between the lobby of Helsinki City Hall and the great hypostyle hall of Karnak explicitly mentioned by Ruusuvuori.

Convinced that these buildings from ancient history are part of our shared cultural heritage, Ruusuvuori endowed the form of his buildings with an evocative value, consecrating the archetype as a memory in his determination to reveal the meaning of a timeless message to humanity. In doing so, Ruusuvuori seems to invite us to think about meaning in architecture and to understand that lying beyond figuration, behind an essential form, there hides a message.»

“Dos edificios de Aarno Ruusuvuori / Two buildings by Aarno Ruusuvuori,” DPA 22 (2006): 32-39. A special issue about Tapiola garden city in Helsinki, with contributions by InPAr (Research Group on Architectural Projects).

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