Thursday, July 29, 2010

Introducing...Sashi Murthy

Catholic University graduate student Sashi Murthy had alwasy heard about the infamous Spirit of Place trips and knew she had to get in on the fun. She's most looking forward to "working with [her] hands and learning how to put something together: from early conceptual models and ideas to the final built product." Along with a better understanding of construction, Sashi doesn't mind getting a good work-out with two weeks of manual labor. I'm sure there will be no shortage of work!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Introducing...Scott Gillepsie

Scott with his poetic model

After hearing about the experience of previous Spirit of Place students, Scott Gillepsie knew he had to take part in the project. A Catholic graduate student in architecture, he can't wait to see the building process of architecture come alive and to get his hands dirty. Probably much like many of us, his knowledge of the Kalevala was nonexistent, but now he views it as "the heritage of the Finnish people. It grounds them, it has a metaphoric, spiritual, and even physical representation." 

Monday, July 26, 2010

Introducing...Sarah Alden

Sarah with her poetic model

I met the delightful Sarah Alden last month during our site visit on Seurasaari to lay the foundation. Sarah, a graduate student in Environmental Art at Aalto in Helsinki, became associated with the project after hearing a lecture by Travis and thinking that "it was a far out idea for a project." I couldn't have said it better myself! She has already been to the site numerous times to watch the construction, but is looking forward to seeing the process of the Kalevala come alive. As a Canadian living in Helsinki, she has the unique position to acquaint herself with the Kalevala on a deeper level than a two week visit. Up until the project she had her bits and pieces about it, but now is plenty familiar and can recognize names and terms all around. She definitely has the cultural advantage.

to get you musically in tune

You might want to get your Kalevala on by listening and watching this performance of the designers Rinne Niinikoski and Olarin Voimisteligat of Olari Gymnastics at the Night on Earth exhibition opening at Suvilahti, Helsinki.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Meeting Mr. Amerikka

Guess who? No, not Michael Phelps . And Not Vin Diesel. Not even Kurt Angle. It's Bruce Oreck, of course. Bruce Oreck as in US Ambsassador to Finland as featured on the cover of Kuukausiliite. He graciously invited us to the Embassy to discuss the SOP project and true to his tip-top form, he understood the project and showed his utmost support. Oreck's knowledge goes beyond diplomacy. He was a tax lawyer for 25 years before becoming an avid supporter of green building with a business focus on sustainable energy. As we left the meeting, Travis finally got him to sign the cover of his Mr. Amerikka shoot. Definitely frame worthy.

Introducing...Amy Castellano

Amy Castellano just returned from a 6 week 12 country trip through Europe just in time to take a breather and head right on back to Finland for SOP Helsinki. Amy was thrilled at the chance to work with the "inspirational" Travis Price before her Catholic experience ended. She just received her BS in Architecture from Catholic and will be entering the Real Estate concentration graduate Architecture program in the fall. Amy hopes to gain more experience on location and witness the process from sketch to final structure.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Introducing...Patrick Manning

Recent graduate from Catholic University, Patrick Maning, will be joining us on the Helsinki Spirit of Place adventure. Patrick originally joined SOP in 2008 with the building of the James Hoban memorial in Ireland. He walked away from the first experience "with a deep understanding for not only a new culture but the knowledge and know how to take an architectural design from start to finish." After discovering the location this year and the potential to architecturally represent the Kalevala he couldn't resist being involved again especially after competing against the country in high school in 2003.

Patrick became familiar with the Kalevala while playing hockey though it wasn't until SOP that he became "extremely familiar with how deeply rooted these epic poems were to the national identity of the Finnish culture....My understanding became deeper as I became more familiar with Vainamoinen, a hero that controlled magical powers through his music. In the book you travel through each journey /poem to later discover moral implications embedded beneath each word. However, what I found extremely personal is that each individual who hears or reads the poems can have their own interpretation of the moral, making it special for each Individual regardless of faith, culture, or race." Well said, Patrick.

Since graduating, Patrick has committed himself to the LEED exam, GRE, and a number of humanitarian projects like Habitat for Humanity and Architecture for Humanity. So glad to have his experience on the trip!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Kathleen Lane

One of the best parts of my job on this project is most definitely who I get to work with and in no way is working with Travis and Kathleen Lane a typical work environment. They teach, explain, encourage, expect (a lot!), and joke. As the director of the Spirit of Place Institute, Kathleen has certainly taken it under her wing and nurtured it to the high level it has reached. She arrived at Spirit of Place with a vast knowledge of management and arts administration, previously working for the AIA as Director of Knowledge Communities. With degrees in English and Art from UC Berkeley, and M.A. in American Studies from U of MD and a MArch from Catholic University and several fellowships and visiting residencies around the world including Bauhaus Dessau Foundation and American Academy in Rome, I can't think of a better person to guide this amazing program. On a more personal level, Kathleen somehow always seems to know the answers to everything you might need. She does so with such grace and encouragement that I couldn't imagine doing this without her!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Introducing...drumroll please...

It's time we introduce our fantastic Spirit of Place students. In no particular order, introductions will be made from now until the time of the trip (less than a month!).
First up, Inka Saini. Inka is one of our dear graduate students from Aalto University School of Art + Design studying spatial design. She's been a huge help coordinating our efforts with the Kalavalakehto in Helsinki all while coaching the junior national gymnastics team of Finland...footage of their winning dance can be seen here. You won't want to miss it.

Friday, July 16, 2010

to everything turn, turn, turn...


...there is a season, turn, turn, turn. Ahhh, seasons in Finland are miraculous. Because of the extremities of sun vs. darkness the Finns truly cherish their serene summers yet adeptly survive the harsh winters. Exhibit A: The site of the Kalavalakehto in Winter then Summer (above). Exhibit B: The Bridge leading to Seurasaari in Winter then Summer. Gorgeous!


Thursday, July 15, 2010

final model

During the 9-day design charette in Washington, DC in early January of this year, the Finnish and American students developed metaphoric designs based upon Finnish culture and mythology, expressed in a modern idiom in a variety of media. From there, they developed their own poetic and sculptural interpretations, which led to a further refined look into detailed architectural models and construction documents. The photos here show the final model representing the Kalavalakehto made of steel, glass, and wood.

The program for the built project will evoke Kalevala metaphor as a "think tank": a small retreat center to promote creative innovative ideas, intellectual exchange, negotiation, and communication, a place where nature and the setting evoke deeper thinking. It will serve as a catalyst for more events, collaborations, cultural activities, and innovative projects.

What other buildings do you know of that function as a literal "think tank"?

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Design charette

Earlier this year, the students involved with Spirit of Place at Catholic University and a few selected from Aalto university in Helsinki met at the Finnish Embassy in Washington, DC for a charette to determine the new Spirit of Place - Design project designated in Helsinki this year. The intense period of 9 days consisted of brainstorming, sketching, writing poetry and constructing models and eventually ended in what will be the final product, The Kalevalakehto. Oftentimes, I tend to prefer the process over the final product because of the surge of creativity that grips each participant. Can you feel it through these pictures? I wish I could have been right in the middle of it all.

Above, the students build the final poetic model to guide the
concept of the process.
The student's final models.
"The Egg opens, Vainamoinen is launched."
The poetic models.

"Swirling air and legs alight and the lands are formed....the Eggs open spilling out the mystery of Creation....launching windswept Vessels transporting the sage song-weaver Vainamoinen....always to be rekindled....recreated in Sampo's fiery light washed upon the a whirling quiet of creativity."

These collection of statements from the Kalevala guide the project leading to the creation of the Kalevalakehto.
Travis assembling the steel roof of the model of the final design choice. (stay tuned for pics of the final model!) in an upcoming post!
The group with their group models.
Team Finland!Of course, some documenting.

We have about a month before the trip to Helsinki to get the project started and finished. Stay tuned from here until then as I introduce the major players in the project.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Meeting the mayor

During our June trip, Travis met with the mayor, Jussi Pajonen, and some editors from magazines, to explain the project and seek his support. The mayor was most gracious and even expressed his conversion to modern buildings/design while working at the city council building. I think time just wore him down into loving clean, sleek lines. Travis gave a fantastic presentation on Spirit of Place, the Kalevalakehto project and some of his other past projects and great conversation ensued. We are pleased to say we have a solid supporter on our side! Helsinki becomes more and more alive as we continue on this journey. The people are quite open to change and fresh ideas and it's very exciting to see them, bureaucracy, work to support the arts. What a fresh concept, non?
Now, I felt silly taking pictures with the mayor in his office so this is the best that you'll get from the city council building. I'd like to think that they announced our arrival for the meeting by putting up the Helsinki World Design Capital flags in front (see top photo). My argument may be justified because they were gone the next day, but I don't think we can claim it. On a side note, what capital city hoists flags in support of design?! I love Finland.
This carpet above is magnificent. Lush and colorful. Kathleen and I were drooling. I don't know what goes on in this room, but I would just sit in awe if I could return. After our meeting with the mayor we met with the exhibition curator for the building where the student's work will be displayed during Design Week next month (next month!). Travis, Kathleen, and Wilhelmina discussed spatial requirements and came up with a stellar plan. For those of you able to come in August, look for the student exhibition work at the city council building on the main floor in the right corner. So excited to see everyone's work there!
While discussion of spatial arrangement took the spotlight, I stole a moment looking at the photography exhibition by Clare Aho like this one above. Balloons never cease to bring a smile to my face.

Friday, July 9, 2010

local inhabitants

Seurasaari is home to more than just lovely old structures. According to my taxi driver on the way to the site you need to be careful of the red squirrels because they will attack. Now, I don't doubt this man's expertise, but I found the squirrels just as harmless as this young ducklings. That doesn't mean I'll be feeding the squirrels any time soon though.

Helsinki, we have a problem...

So, we encountered a little glitch while laying the foundation for the Kalevalakehto. (cue reality show dramatic voice) What will they do now? Travis explains what happened and possible solutions. What are YOUR ideas?

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Day 2 of construction

Ok, maybe it's not so interesting to you if you're only into finished products, but for the curious mind of how things are built, this is a goodie. Here the guys are drilling holes into the ground and rocks. They used the temporary wood template to figure out where the holes for the steel beams are place and then use they magical hole machine to drill a couple of feet deep. It's quite the interesting process and produces a lovely smooth rock cylinder in the end.

Travis shows us the progress of the Kalavalakheto on Seurasaari. The wood template has been made and the steel posts have been drilled into the ground and now they are ready to pour the concrete into the steel posts to secure the structure.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Houses on Seurasaari

Looks like something straight from Hobbiton no?
Beautiful fences.

The Mt. Vernon of Seurasaari.

The site of the Kalevalakehto is situated on the island of Seurasaari just a few kilometers from the heart of Helsinki. This island is an open-air museum featuring typical houses of Finnish history from the 18th to the 20th centuries. It's a real treat for lovers of old buildings. Take a look at these beauties, right?!

Watch the video of Day One of construction

Travis introduces us to the site and a few key players in the project like Inka and Kathleen Lane. The workers create a template on the exact location where the permanent foundation will be laid to get an idea of size and where they need to drill the holes for the steel posts.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Travis Price

Travis Price doesn't just build...but boy does he build. No, he conceptualizes, designs, constructs, philosophizes, and executes structures you can hardly conceive of in places like Machu Picchu, Ireland, and now Helsinki, Finland. Naturally, you wouldn't expect him to just play the part of an architect. Tack on professor, explorer, business owner, designer, mentor, philosopher, author, advocate, blogger, lecturer, adventurer, environnmental pioneer, organizer, innovator, consultant, discussion-generator and you're somewhat closer to the definition of the man who founded and leads Spirit of Place - Spirit of Design out of Catholic University. He's been leading these nearly annual expeditions since 1993 and hasn't seemed to slow down, and trust me, as I accompanied him and Kathleen Lane to Helsinki last month, I kind of wish he would (well, only slightly, this girl takes double the amount of steps!). He's on a quest to uncover the stories behind cultures through architecture. These stories have been buried by layers of meaningless modernity and are awaiting discovery. So please, join us as we uncover the story of the Kalevala this year in Helsinki. You're in for a ride!