A walk to Kallio

On the Tuesday during my stay in Helsinki my wife had flown back home so I had the rest of the week on my own. I was working during the day but the course I was running finished at 5 I had the evening to occupy myself. I’m not one for sitting in hotel rooms just working and as it was light until late, I took the opportunity to explore the city.

A prominent landmark in Helsinki is the tower of a church up on a hill in the Kallio district. It can be seen from all over the city. I knew that it had been designed by the Finnish architect Lars Sonck, who is well known for his Jugendstil style buildings, so I decided to wander over to take a look. I could have caught the tram but decided that it was within walking distance and I needed some exercise!

I walked past the front of the railway station and then cut across past the Finnish National Theatre to the Kaisanemi park. The trees were still bare of leaves, Spring not having quite arrived in Helsinki. Heading diagonally across the park, I passed this statue, Convolvulus, by Viktor Jansson, the father of Tove Jansson, the artist and author of the Moomin books, who modelled for the sculpture. The pose made me think that she was practicing karate or Tai Chi!

IMG_6462.jpg

After crossing the bridge over the Pitkäsilta bridge I turned left, walking along the waterside. A little way along on my right I could see the Paasitorni, also known as the Helsinki Workers’ House, a Jugendstil building designed by Karl Lindahl, built from granite, which opened in 1908 as conference and leisure premises for the working class. It’s very characteristic of the Finnish National Romanticism Jugendstil style.

IMG_6420.jpgIMG_6452.jpg

On the square in front of the main entrance to the building I spotted this statue of two boxers by Johannes Haapasalo.

DSC03726.JPG

Cutting back round to Siltasaarenkatu, I walked up the hill towards the church. It’s an imposing granite structure standing on top of the hill and, like the Paasitorni, built in the Finnish National Romanticism Jugendstil style.

IMG_6463.jpgIMG_6446.jpg

It’s an impressive building; solid and imposing but with some delicate decorative touches.

I had a look inside, but it looked as if a service was about to start to I snapped a few photos but felt it would be inappropriate to look around.

I spent a lttle time wandering round the nearby streets. Kallio, although originally a workers’ district has become gentrified and has something of a bohemian reputation.  I was also surprised by the number of “massage parlours” close to the church so Kallio clearly has a “red light district”, but not as blatant as Amsterdam.

IMG_6429.jpg

Heading back towards the city centre, near Paasitorni, I turned right and walked along the shore of Eläintarhanlahti

IMG_6453.jpg

 

and then over the railway bridge to Töölönlahti. These are both seawater lakes connected to each other and the sea by narrow straights. I walked south along the eastern shore from where there were views across to the Opera and Finlandia Hall.

DSC03752.JPG

DSC03751.JPG

It was only a short distance back to my hotel.

 

Advertisements

Munkkiniemi

DSC03700.JPG

Monday after I’d finished work for the day we got on the No. 4 tram heading north and stayed on board to the end of the line. It took us to Munkkiniemi, one of the more affluent areas of Helsinki, by the sea in the north west of the city.

Right by the tram stop there’s a rather nice café that I’d visited during my last visit to Helsinki, 3 years ago.

DSC03701

It was a good spot to grab a drink and a bite to eat overlooking the sea on a very pleasant evening. There are plenty of seats on the outside terrace, but although some hardy locals were sitting outside we stayed in the warm.

DSC03699.JPG

After eating we took a short stroll along the sea front then cut in land to have a look at the nearby Aalto House – the home of the renowned Finnish Modernist architect, Alvar Aalto. I’d visited the house when I was last in Helsinki. Of course, it was closed but we got a good look at the outside.

DSC03706

We then walked the short distance to his studio in a nearby street, again taking a look from the outside.

DSC03708.JPG

Afterwards we cut  back to the sea front and walked back to the tram stop to catch a tram back to the city centre.

Ahti and Maija Lavonen – In Harmony

DSC03544.JPG

The main exhibition showing at the Didrichsen Art Museum in Helsinki during our recent visit was devoted to the works of two Finnish artists, a married couple, Ahti and Maija Lavonen.

The Gallery’s website tells us that

Ahti Lavonen (1928–1970) became one of the leading figures in Finnish painting in the Sixties – a bold experimenter and committed individual who closely followed artistic developments at home and abroad, and who was never afraid to air his opinions in public. His brilliant career came to an abrupt end with his early death in 1970.

The roots of Maija Lavonen’s (1931–) artistic career lay in the traditions of textile art, craftsmanship and a profound understanding of materials. Study, work, exhibiting and commissions formed an integral chain that has extended over six decades. Her choice of materials and techniques is a combination of the old and the new, and always contextually harmonious. Nature provides the prevailing motif in her works.

Ahti, who died relatively young (he was 43) was clearly influenced by a number of his contemporaries elsewhere in Europe and the Americas, and the works on display reflected a number of styles. Here’s a selection.

DSC03615DSC03617DSC03548DSC03619DSC03621DSC03613DSC03554

Maiji primarily worked in textiles and the exhibition displayed works in the more traditional media and also some more recent works using fibre optics.

DSC03533DSC03535

DSC03539

DSC03537DSC03556DSC03581

A Visit to the Didrichsen Art Museum

DSC03592.JPG

After arriving in Helsinki late Saturday afternoon, we had a full day on Sunday to explore and do a bit of tourism before my course started on Monday. The weather was rather cold and grey with rain showers so we decided that some indoor rip to activity was the best option. I suggested a visit out to the Didrichsen Art Museum which is a little way out from the city centre on the island of Kuusisaari so we took the metro and bus out and returned via bus and tram. I’d visited during a previous work related trip to Helsinki back in October 2014 when I’d seen an exhibition of works by Edvard Munch.

The museum was originally a private residence owned by enthusiastic Modern Art collectors Marie-Louise and Gunnar Didrichsen. It’s an attractive house in a beautiful setting in the woods by the sea – a Modernist building designed by architect Viljo Revell  in 1958-59 and is . An extension was added six years later to house the owners’ art collection.

DSC03605.JPG

The Museum has an extensive collection of works by 20th Century Finnish artists and works by international artists including Picasso, Kandinsky, Miró, Léger, Moore, Giacometti and Arp.  In addition they have a Pre-Columbian art collection and a collection of Oriental art. There’s also a sculpture garden with works displayed at the front of the house and in the wooded gardens at the back of the house leading down to the sea.

DSC03578.JPG

During our visit the museum had two exhibitions. The main one featured works by two Finnish artists, a married couple, Ahti and Maija Lavonen. One of the rooms in the extension basement was displaying a selection of the main works from the Didrichsen modern collection – The Heart of the Didrichsen Collection. The exhibition is a preview of some of the gems of the nearly 100 works which will be shown at Millesgården in Stockholm during the summer of 2018.

I’ll cover the Ahti and Maija Lavonen exhibition in a separate post but here’s a selection of the works from The Heart of the Didrichsen Collection.

DSC03561

Upright Interior Form (Flower) by Henry Moore

DSC03559

Mother and child with wave background II by Henry Moore

DSC03579

Demeter by Jean Arp

DSC03574

Nu Debout by Pablo Picasso

DSC03572

Eglise a Marnau by Wassilly Kadinsky

DSC03570

a small sculpture by Giacometti

DSC03568

small reclining figure by Henry Moore

DSC03565

Curved form with inner form (Anima) by Barbara Hepworth

DSC03563

The Sandman by Salvador Dali

and the sculpture garden.

DSC03595

Augustus by Bernard Meadows

DSC03598

Blueberries by Paula Salmela

DSC03600

Dialogue by Eero Hiironen

DSC03603

Watergate by Eero Hiironen

DSC03606

Crosswork by Mauno Hartman

DSC03608

Mama Africa by Tilla Kekki

DSC03610

Mama Europaby Tilla Kekki

DSC03612

DSC03628

Atom Piece by Henry Moore

DSC03633

Assemble by Lionel Smit

DSC03640

Sunflower Field by Eila Hiltunen

DSC03641

Turbulence by Eila Hiltunen

DSC03644

Arctic Aphrodite by Laila Pullinen

DSC03646

Crescendo by Laila Pullinen

DSC03625

Stele deOfferende by Mario Negri

DSC03627

Return to Helsinki

IMG_6316.jpg

I spent last week in a chilly Helsinki. It was my 4th visit, the first being in late 2011, all connected with work. But I always try to tag some “me time” onto my works trips so, as in the past I went out a day early on the Saturday and this time also tagged an extra day onto the end. I was over to run a training course so I was also free during the evenings to explore the city (I was staying right in the centre) and that was made easy as this time it was light until close to 10 o’clock. I also had company for the first few days, as my came with me this time, travelling home mid-week.

The weather during the week was mixed but it was bright and sunny when we arrived late afternoon so after checking in to our hotel we went for a wander in the city centre.

We wandered across Esplanade and the market square to the Russian Orthodox Cathedral which stands overlooking the harbour.

IMG_6315.jpg

Nearby is the “Sugar Cube” building designed by Alvar Aalto

IMG_6312.jpg

The brilliant white Neo-Classical Lutheran cathedral is only a short walk away in Senate Square

IMG_6325.jpg

Just behind the cathedral there’s a very attractive little church standing in it’s own garden

IMG_6323.jpg

Notice that although it was late April there was still no evidence of leaves about to appear.

This is the Parliament building

DSC03754

Enter a caption

This attractive wooden structure is the Kamppi chapel of silence,  located right next to our hotel, on the south side of the busy Narinkka Square.

IMG_6335.jpg

Although it was closed for the day when we arrived, we had a peep inside the next day.

A very beautiful, restful, meditative space.

One thing I like about Helsinki is how the cafes tend to stay open quite late by UK standards – at least 8 p.m., and continue to sell food (sandwiches, salads and cakes) as well as tea, coffee and alcoholic beverages. Cafe Java on Mannerheimintie, near the chapel and a few minutes from our hotel stayed open until midnight most days and became my “local” during my stay. I don’t drink alcohol (not by choice, I must add) so it was great to sit watching the world go by with a brew surrounded by locals eating and drinking.

DSC04028

 

“The Duchess of Malfi” at the Swan Theatre

the-duchess-of-malfi-production-photos_-2018_2018_photo-by-helen-maybanks-_c_-rsc_243203.tmb-img-1824

On the Monday evening during my stay in Stratford I managed to get tickets for the RSC’s production of The Duchess of Malfi in the Swan Theatre. There were no performances of the current show in the main theatre (Macbeth, with Christopher Ecclestone) that week but I  wasn’t disappointed as I had an enjoyable evening along with an Australian friend who was over for the conference.

The Swan is, like the Globe on the Southbank in London, a recreation of an Elizabethan / Jacobean theatre. In this case it’s u-shaped with a “thrust stage” surrounded on 3 sides, with stalls and two galleries.

The play was is a Jacobean tragedy by English dramatist John Webster and was written in in 1612/13. The blurb on the RSC’s website summed up the plot

A defiant woman is destroyed by her corrupt brothers in this violent revenge tragedy, full of dark humour.

The production had some modern twists –  modern dress, gymnastic dancing and some modern songs and started with the lead actress, Joan Iyiola, dragging a large animal carcass on to the stage. It stayed there, but it’s significance only became apparent in the second half.

Joan Iyiola was a powerful and very sexy duchess and I thought that Nicolas Tennant as the self serving Bosola was also very good.

After the interval, occupants of the front rows, where the seats are below stage level, were given blankets to cover their clothing and shoes. The reason became apparent early in the second half when the carcass was cut and began to leak blood – symbolising the brutality of the story where the Duchess’ brothers Ferdinand and the Cardinal, have their sister murdered for marrying outside her class

By the end of the play the whole stage was covered with blood. And being a Jacobean tragedy all of the major actors lay dead on the floor, drenched with the red liquid.

the-duchess-of-malfi-production-photos_-2018_2018_photo-by-helen-maybanks-_c_-rsc_243330.tmb-img-1824

Stratford-upon-Avon. A walk along the river

IMG_6203.jpg

A couple of weeks ago I was in Stratford-upon-Avon for the annual conference of the British Occupational Hygiene Society (BOHS) conference. The conference started on the Tuesday but as I was running a professional development course the day before, I’d travelled over on Sunday afternoon. Although it turned hot and sunny in the middle of the week, Sunday afternoon was rather grey and showery but it brightened up later in the day, so after my evening meal I decided to get out for a stroll. Stratford is only a small, albeit pleasant, town and the obvious place for a walk was along the River Avon.

I crossed the river over to the “left bank”

IMG_6198.jpg

and then passed the Royal Shakespeare Theatre on the opposite side of the river.  Built in 1932 it was designed by the then 29-year-old Elisabeth Whitworth Scott, it was the first
public building to be designed by a female architect.  There was a major renovation of the theatre at the beginning of the 21st Century. While the facade was retained the inside was gutted and completely rebuilt and there were additions, including the viewing tower and new roof top restaurant

IMG_6202.jpg

There were plenty of swans swimming on the river

IMG_6207.jpg

A little further downstream I passed the Holy Trinity church on the opposite bank.

IMG_6236.jpg

Further on there was a footbridge and I crossed over to the right bank, now following the river upstream.

IMG_6231.jpg

I passed the Holy Trinity Church, getting a closer view of the church where Shakespeare was baptised and buried.

IMG_6214.jpg

It won’t have looked like this when Shakespeare was around, mind. Although some older stonework was visible it has the look of a Victorian neo-Gothic building, due to its restoration in 1836-7 and 1839-41.  I only found out later that Shakespeare is buried here, so, sadly, although I walked through the graveyard I didn’t visit his grave.

Carrying on I walked through the RSC gardens where there was a pavilion which had images of actors from performances at the theatre.

IMG_6215.jpgIMG_6217.jpg

A little further along I reached the back of the RSC building, with a view of the Swan Theatre

IMG_6223.jpg

Walking along the river side to the front of  the building I could see the bridge I’d crossed at the start of my walk. The sun was starting to set and the light was fading, but it was a pleasant evening and I felt like walking further, so I turned around and re-traced my steps, circumnavigating the river in the opposite direction.

IMG_6226.jpg