The Sixth International Alvar Aalto Symposium, ‘Architecture of the Essential,” held in Jyvaskyla, Finland, addressed the issues of building within the context of diminishing resources. Asked to do a temporary installation, I focused on the pine trees of the Finnish landscape and explored how to make this ever-present element a subject of specific consideration and reflection.
The blanket of tall pines surrounding the town extends to the campus as well. Behind the auditorium designed by Aalto is a large stand of trees with paths forking to either side of the sloping terrain of the grove. The stand consists of mature pines with a clear floor of pine needles below. Approaching this grove the visitor’s attention is brought from the height of the pines to the horizontal surface of the floor of the forest. It appears as though this surface is being built up. There, one sees a series of long wood framed troughs embedded in earth berms. Each trough is filled with still water catching the reflection of the trees above. The semi-circular interior of each trough is lined with shiny galvanized metal and seems to hold the imprint of the individual tree to which it is attached. From an adjacent viewing platform it is possible to see seven parallel long troughs as mirrored fragments of the pine trees. The utilitarian nature of the structures engages the viewer in questioning their use. The mirrored surface and repetition of troughs and wood framing elements suggest they may extend beyond this immediate location. The visitor is engaged directly with the basic elements of earth, water, trees as s/he moves through the area. The work, the viewer, and the site are revealed as inseparable, as indeed they are in any consideration of the conjunction of built and natural environments in our future.