Art Nouveau in Helsinki – Part 3


During my visit to Helsinki 3 years ago I spent some time seeking out buildings constructed in the Jugendstil style, the Finnish variant of “Art Nouveau”.This wasn’t too difficult as the style was associated with an upsurge in Finnish nationalism at the end of the 19th Century and early 20th Century and there are plenty of examples in the city centre and the inner districts which were developed during that period.. After that visit I wrote a couple of posts about some of the buildings I’d seen. As I’m particularly interested in this type of architecture I decided to spend some time during my latest visit seeking out some more.

Early Sunday morning I caught the No. 3 tram out to the district of Eira. a wealthy district  which, according to Wikipedia “has some of the most expensive and sought-after old apartments in Helsinki”, many of them built in the Jugendstil style.

Directly opposite the tram stop is the Eira hospital. Wikipedia tells us that the district was named after the hospital rather than vice verca!DSC02565


The architect was Lars Sonck, who designed a number of notable buildings in Helsinki and other cities in Finland.

Finnish Jugendstil incorporates rustic type elements along with more Modernist type features and this is the case with the hospital. 

So this doorway has a very rustic look


while the overall look is much more modern with many decorative eatures that were avant-garde for the time it was built



The building next door was particularly interesting – a fix of “rustic”, mock Medieval and Modernist elements


as typified with this section – rustic stonework at the bottom, geometric patterns above with a mythical beast in between.



Just round the corner was this building, similar in style to the hospital



This apartment bock was on the corner of a whole street of Jugendstil buildings





Some more examples from the area illustrating that Jugendstil wasn’t a coherent style but was experimental – incorporating many different influences








One thing I noticed was that many of the buildings included owl motifs in their decorative features





I couldn’t find out what that was about but it must have some significance.

There are many more Jugenstil buildings throughout Helsinki city centre – these two are directly across the road from the hotel where I’ve been staying. They’re simpler buildings than those at Eira, but have incorporated decorative elements that give them that distinctive look.

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Street haunting in Helsinki


I had a good day yesterday, wrapped up warm, wandering around Helsinki. Cloudy in the morning with some breaks in the cloud, it turned into a sunny afternoon, clouding over again later in the afternoon. A good day for sightseeing. Here are some of the photos I took.

Regular trams and buses operate throughout the city making getting around really easy. Inexpensive too when you buy one of the “day tickets” – I bought one that will cover the whole of my stayDSC02562

Eira Hospital – one of the many Judenstil buildings in the city


An old Volvo parked on the street.


A street in the Eira district



The ext couple of shots (zoomed in) were taken from the top of the Observatory Hill park .DSC02617


The Esplanade


I rather like this attractive little church – the Holy Trinity Orthodox church – just behind the Lutheran cathedral


A couple of shots of two of the wooden houses on the east side of Töölönlahti bay



The Helsinki City Theatre


Time to stop off for a coffee in this cafe on the quayside on the north side of Katajanoka


View over the harbour from the Market Square – the sun going down


Return to Helsinki


Four weeks ago I walked out of an airport into what felt like an oven. Yesterday I got off a plane and walked into a fridge. In the first case I was in Abu Dhabi, but this week I’m in Helsinki.

I’m over here for the week with work but came over a day early so that I could have a look around. I’ve been here before, a short trip almost exactly three years ago (time flies!) when I also managed to tag a day on to the trip.

Being November it was going dark by the time I left the airport at 4 in the afternoon. But after checking into my hotel in the centre of the city I went for a wander and managed to take a few photos.

The Russian Orthodox Uspenski Cathedral that overlooks the main harbour


A Baltic ferry setting sail


The Lutheran Cathedral in Senate Square



The Contemporary Art Museum (closed for renovation until next year, unfortunately.


The Music Centre


Finlandia Hall


Looking over the water towards the Finnish National Opera House


The Wooden Church, just round the back of my hotel


Mr Turner


On Saturday we went to see Mike Leigh’s latest film, “Mr Turner” about JMW Turner. I’ve been looking forward to seeing the film ever since I read about it when it was shown at the Cannes Film Festival earlier this year and I wasn’t disappointed.
Although I wouldn’t claim to be an expert on art, as far as I’m concerned, Turner is the greatest artist these island’s have produced. He was way ahead of his time. Although he painted traditional Romantic landscapes and mythological works, it is clear that his real interest was in the effects created by light and stormy seas. To me, many of his works are pure abstract with swirling patterns of colour and predate the works of the Impressionists who were surely influenced by him.
The film didn’t have a clear storyline as such. It was very much character driven. Timothy Spall gave a tremendous performance as Turner. He wasn’t a sympathetic charcter by any means so the portrayal was very much warts on all – well, more like grunts and snarls as that was the main way the Spall’s Turner communicated. Not the most articulate of characters – the lecture at the Royal Acadamy that featured in one scene was far from electric! – Turner’s way of communicating, as far as this film was concerned, was through his art.
The film also explored his relationships with his fellow artists and women. And in the latter, in particular, the portrayal was far from flattering. He neglected his two daughters and sexually exploited his househeeper (played by Dorothy Atkinson), but his relationship with his “mistress” Mrs Booth (Marion Bailey), his former Margate Landlady, came across as genuinly loving. His relationship with his father (Paul Jesson) was also affectionate.
All the performances by all the main characters were excellent – that’s Mike Leigh’s strength, bringing the best out of his cast – and the cinematography by Dick Pope was beautifully done, especially the landscape shots.




Ashford in the Water

Ashton in the Water is a small, picturesque village in the Peak District just a few miles from Bakewell. It’s particularly, renowned for it’s “Sheepwash bridge” over the river Wye. It’s actually an old packhorse bridge but on the west side there’s a pen used to hold lambs while ewes were dropped in the water on the opposite bank. The ewes then swam across the river to reach their lambs.


It’s a very small village with stone cottages, a church and a couple of pubs.
In past times Ashford was a working village. The cottages would have been home to lead miners, quarry and stone workers and the like. Today most of them seem to have been converted into holiday acommodation. Like White Coppice, that I wrote about a few weeks ago, it’s an example of how a industrial village can be changed and become a picturesque destination.



The Grand Mosque, Abu Dhabi


We arrived in Abu Dhabi early morning so after we checked into our hotel room, unpacked, freshened up, changed and grabbed some breakfast we had most of the rest of the day to do as we pleased. It didn’t please me to spend the day working on my laptop – I wanted to see something of the city – so three of us decided we’d take a taxi out to see the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque.


Unlike in Dubai, where non-Muslims are forbidden for entering the Grand Mosque, the one in Abu Dhabi welcomes visitors provided they respect the dress and behavioural code appropriate for a Muslim place of worship. Visitors can wander around on their own, so long as they keep to designated areas, and there are guided tours several times a day. We managed to arrive in time to catch the 11 o’clock guided tour and also spent some time exploring on our own.



The Grand Mosque is the equivalent of a Christian Cathedral. It’s massive, covering 30 acres, and can accommodate over 40,000 worshipers. It’s architecture reflects cultures from across the Muslim world. It has 82 different sized domes in all, four minarets, loads of decorated columns and Moorish arches.


The mosque was constructed from 1996 to 2007 and is the eighth largest in the world. No expense has been spared. There’s high quality marble everywhere, in many places inlaid with different colours producing patterns and floral motifs.


There are sumptuous decorations on the ceilings


and walls




No images of people or animals, but lots of geometric patterns and floral decoration. This pattern rather reminded me of a William Morris wallpaper design.


Inside, there are seven imported chandeliers madein Munich Germany that incorporate millions of Swarovski crystals.





And the floor of the main prayer hall is covered by the world’s largest carpet



This is one of several clocks, made in England, that show the times of prayer




Columns are inlaid with jewels and precious stones.





Like the great European cathedrals, this Mosque is meant to impress, instil a sense of awe into visitors, and act as a symbol of the incredible wealth of the rulers of the Emirate.

Impressions of Abu Dhabi


I was in Abu Dhabi for a few days last week attending a conference I’d been involved in organising and which I was chairing. I didn’t have a lot of time for sightseeing, but had an afternoon and a few hours during the evenings to explore. There wasn’t enough time to get too far from the area I was staying, but I managed to see the two major attractions – the Grand Mosque and the Corniche


– and flew over the racing circuit and Ferrari World amusement park on the way in.We were staying in the Rotana Beach hotel where the conference was being held. So although it was hot outside (30 C plus) it felt rather that we were inside an air conditioned bubble for most of our stay. A rather artificial world of luxury.


The City

  • Abu Dhabi is the largest of the Emirates that make up the United Arab Emirates and the capital city bears the same name as the region. The city originated on a T shaped island jutting out into the sea, but has now expanded onto a number of neighbouring islands. There’s even a man-made island, Lulu island, just off the coast.
  • It’s not that long ago that the city was a small settlement on the main island but since oil was discovered there has been a tremendous growth in a few decades – the population expanding from 58,000 in 1952 to an estimated 1.72 million in 2009.


  • There didn’t seem to be a historic core of the city, at least I wasn’t able to find one. It’s very much a modern city of tower blocks and skyscrapers.
  • A lot of very modern shopping centres full of expensive shops. All the usual high street names from the UK, Europe and the US. More evidence, if we really needed it, of globalisation.
  • It’s still growing at a pace and almost seemed like one big construction site at times.


The People

  • Less than 20% of the population are natives, the overwhelming majority of inhabitants of the city being expatriate professionals from Europe, Australia, South Africa and the USA with a vast army of labourers, hotel staff, domestic servants and building workers from the Indian subcontinent and the Philippines. Consequently there’s very little contact with Emirati citizens on a day to day basis.
  • There were some locals at the conference and I found them to be quite open and very hospitable.

Getting around

  • Abu Dhabi isn’t built for exploring on foot, particularly the newer suburbs. There are footpaths in the older parts of the city and when I got out of the hotel for a walk there were plenty of people moving around on foot heading home from work. But the pavements weren’t particularly in good condition and high kerbs made it difficult for anyone with even minor disabilities.
  • The car dominates and the traffic during the busier parts of the day is horrific.And many of the drivers seemed completely mad driving at speed from jam to jam, swerving into gaps and driving very close to the vehicle in front.
  • Taxis are cheap compared to the UK and are the best way of getting around the city. There are public buses too.

Eating out

  • There wasn’t a shortage of places to eat. All the usual fast food outlets plus lots of restaurants, particularly Indian and Lebanese.


  • We mainly ate in the hotel (expensive but our costs were being covered) but we managed to get out one evening to eat in a Lebanese restaurant close to the hotel that was recommended by a Northern English expat we met while visiting the Grand Mosque. We had a sumptuous feast for about £10 a head – no booze though!





  • The vast majority of the buildings were rather bland non-descript tower blocks thrown up when the city was developing. More recently a number of “landmark” skyscrapers have been constructed. Most  were away from the hotel we were staying in but we saw some of them when we went out one evening to the Corniche and on the way to and from the airport.



  • The most beautiful building we saw, and visited, was the Grand Mosque, a taxi ride from our hotel towards the airport.


  • A number of major landmark projects are underway in the city including branches of the Guggenheim Museum and the Louvre on Saadiyat Island. The Guggenheim building has been designed by Frank Gehry and the Louvre by Jean Nouvel, a couple of “superstar” architects.


  • Currently there’s very little of art and culture in Abu Dhabi. – I guess it says a lot that one of the main attractions is the giant flagpole that we could see over the water when we visited the Corniche one evening


Saadiyat Cultural District will be a centre for global culture, drawing local, regional and international visitors with unique exhibitions, permanent collections, productions and performances. Its iconic institutions will be housed in buildings constituting a statement of the finest architecture at the beginning of the 21st century

  • The Louvre is due to open next year and the Guggenheim in 2017.