An afternoon on Suomenlinna

DSC03780

The course I was running in Helsinki finished at midday on the Friday after the delegates had sat their exam. My flight home wasn’t until Saturday afternoon so I had another day to spend looking around the city.  I decided to take the ferry over to Suomenlinna the island fortress a short distance from the mainland. I’d visited before, during my first trip to Helsinki, but that was some time ago.

Suomenlinna was fortified when the Swedish were in control of Finland, beginning in 1748. It’s a natural location for a defensive fortress being in a dominant position in the sea lanes approaching the city. At that time it was known as Sveaborg or Viapori in Finnish.

The fortress was actually never quite completed as planned, even though the original aim was to complete the construction in only four years. The Pomeranian war (1756–1763) put the construction on hold, although the battles did not extend to Viapori in the 1700s. The sea fortress had merits as a naval base in the Russo-Swedish War of 1788–1790 (‘Gustav III’s War’), but it was not involved in actual battles. (Suomenlinna website)

After the defeat of the Swedes in the war, Finland became an “autonomous Grand Duchy” of the Russian Emprire and the fortress was taken over by the Russians. It went into decline but after the Crimean War, when it was attacked in August 1855 by a Franco-British fleet, the fortifications were repaired. Finland gained independence in 1917, although the fortress remained in Russian hands until the Spring of 1918. Once in Finnish hands, the fortress was renamed Suomenlinna (‘Castle of Finland’)

Today it’s a major tourist attraction and the ferry over to the island was full of tourists of various nationalities even though it was out of the main tourist season.  Most of the attractions on the island were closed, but I spent a good few hours exploring the extensive fortifications that were accessible.

DSC03848.JPG

Suomenlinna is actually built on a small cluster of five islands joined together by bridges, with the main sights on the main two islands. The ferry quay is by the Jetty Barracks, built during the Russian era, at the north end of the fortress. Arriving at the jetty the view is dominated by the church, which was originally built as a Russian Orthodox garrison church with onion domes in 1854. It was converted to a Lutheran church when the Finns took over the fortress. It’s also a lighthouse with the light located in the central dome.

DSC03908.JPG

Reminding us of the island’s military function, the church is surrounded by a large chain supported by cannons.

DSC03917.JPG

There are substantial remnants of the fortifications from the different eras, much of which can be accessed, and I spent most of the time walking around them. Here’s a few of the many photos I took

DSC03826DSC03832DSC03834DSC03843DSC03855DSC03861DSC03862DSC03873DSC03875DSC03878DSC03884DSC03885DSC03886DSC03888

 The Great Courtyard, built in the 1760s, served as the main square and administrative centre of the fortress. The houses surrounding the courtyard included the fortress commandant’s house and the main guard house. In the centre of the courtyard there’s the tomb of Augustin Ehrensvärd, the architect of the square.

DSC03897

Back towards the main jetty there’s a number of old wooden buildings which were originally the houses and shops used by traders during the Russian era.

DSC03923.JPG

Time was getting on, so it was time to catch the ferry back to the mainland.  I reckon it would be possible to spend most of the day on the island when the attractions which were closed during my visit – various museums and a submarine! – are open. But I’d I had seen most of what I’d wanted to see and although I lucky that the sun was shining, I was starting to feel a little cold.

DSC03928.JPG

 

Advertisements

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.

 

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.

Two East End Buildings

One of my main objectives during my mooch around Spitalfields last week was to have a look at a couple of Arts and Crafts / Art Nouveau buildings  in the area, designed by Charles Harrison Townsend. He was a Scouser – well, almost, he was born in Birkenhead – who moved to London in 1880.

The first of the two buildings was the Whitechapel gallery, a short distance down Whitechapel from Aldgate where I’d been working. I’d been there a few times before to visit exhibitions and always admired the building with it’s twin towers and massive, off-centre round arch above the front door.

IMG_5959.jpg

It’s creamy stone stands out in a street of dark brick buildings. In a number of ways, with it’s solid stone construction and relatively but curved surfaces, it rather reminds me of the work of Charles Rennie Mackintosh, particularly the Glasgow School of Art.

IMG_5897.jpg

Originally, it was intended that the upper part of the facade would be filled with mosaics by the renowned Arts and Crafts designer Walter Crane, but these were never completed. However, today there’s a lovely metallic frieze of leaves and branches by Rachael Whiteread that was installed just a few years ago.

The gallery was founded  1901, intended to bring art to the working classes of East London, and was one of the first publicly funded galleries for temporary exhibitions in the Capital.

The second building was on Bishopgate at the far side of Spitalsfields and close to Liverpool Street Station – The Bishopgate Institute.

Like the Whitechapel Gallery, it has a broad semi-circular arched entrance and twin towers, in this case topped by ornate, multifacetted turrets. It has a different look, though – a little more traditional, more ornate and influenced by Romanesque and Byzantine architecture.

IMG_5935.jpg

There are beautiful friezes above the entrance and towards the top of the towers, representing the Tree of Life. It was difficult to get a photo of them – the street was busy with commuters at rush hour, but I’ve done my best to enlarge sections of my pictures of the building

IMG_5933 (2)IMG_5933 (3)

According to the Institute’s website

The original aims of the Institute were to provide a public library, public hall and meeting rooms for people living and working in the City of London. The Great Hall in particular was ‘erected for the benefit of the public to promote lectures, exhibitions and otherwise the advancement of literature, science and the fine arts’.

So both buildings reflect the Art and Crafts Movement’s dedication to the cause of social progress (and, in may cases, Socialism) by providing facilities for the education and enlightenment of the working class. It’s good to see that both buildings are still being used for the purposes originally intended.

Charles Harrison Townsend designed another Arts and Crafts / Art Nouveau building, the Horniman Museum in Forest Hill, South London. I’ve had a look at some pictures of the Museum on the web and it’s now on the bucket list. It’s not so far from the Dulwich Picture Gallery so perhaps I can arrange to combine a visit to both of them.

Street Haunting in Spitalfields

IMG_5918.jpg

Last Tuesday I was working in the east of London, in Aldgate. After work, I still had 2 and 1/2 hours to kill before my train so, as it was a pleasant afternoon, I decided to have a wander around Spitalfields, a short walk away.

In the 17th and 18th century the area was associated with silk weaving after Huguenots fleeing from persecution in France settled here and brought their skills with them. Later, Irish linen workers settled here. In the Victorian period, following the decline of the silk and linen industries it became something of a notorious slum. There were further waves of Jewish and then Bangladeshi immigrants bringing new cultures and energy to the area. Today, like much of the East End it’s become somewhat gentrified. The old Victorian market and surrounding streets being redeveloped.

It’s an interesting place to walk around, with some historic buildings and modern street art to look at.

For me, the star of the show is Hawksmoor’s magnificent gleaming white Christ Church

IMG_5916

IMG_5899

one of the six, eccentric English Baroque churches for which he is best known.

There’s an interesting war memorial in the church yard.

IMG_5909.jpg

Close by, on Commercial Street,  the Fruit and Wool exchange building has been controversially redeveloped against local opposition, over-ruled by the former Mayor of London and current “Clown Secretary”. The white neo-Classical façade has, fortunately, been preserved.

IMG_5917.jpg

A number of old commercial buildings nearby  have also been preserved

IMG_5919

IMG_5953.jpg

IMG_5936.jpg

I quite liked this building with it’s neo-Gothic features

IMG_5950.jpg

and these more modern flats with an Art Deco look

IMG_5945.jpg

There’s street art dotted around the redeveloped market. Here’s a selection I spotted.

The Spitalfields Goat by Kenny Hunter

IMG_5961

IMG_5928

A pear and a fig by Ali Grant

IMG_5925

Dogman and Rabbitgirl with coffee by Gillie and Marc

IMG_5939

Wooden Boat with Seven People by Kalliopi Lemos, features an authentic boat that was used to transport refugees from Turkey to the shores of the Greek islands. The installation aims to reflect Spitalfields’ rich history of providing shelter for successive waves of migrants across the centuries.

IMG_5941

I couldn’t find out who had created this “steampunk” motorbike

IMG_5947

 

Het Olympisch Stadion

DSC03244

We were staying directly across from the Olympisch Stadion, built as the main stadium for the 1928 Summer Olympics in Amsterdam. It’s a brick built Amsterdam School style structure, designed by the Dutch architect Jan Wils.

Due to renovation works taking place on a couple of Art Deco style buildings at the front of the stadium and an entrance that had been built to the stadium which was being used as a skating rink (the Dutch love skating), we couldn’t see much of the building, but I popped over for half an hour one afternoon to take a closer look.

DSC03242

Built of brick, in keeping with the Amsterdam School style the walls have decorative features including flower boxes and projections.

DSC03238

The Marathontoren (Marathon Tower) is positioned asymmetrically in front of the Marathonpoort (Marathon Gateway) – it’s here where the Olympic flame burned for the duration of the Games

DSC03239

The tower is lit up at night and we could see it from the street outside the hotel and our bedroom window.

DSC02947

Round the back of the stadium there was a sculpture of Johan Cruyff and Berti Vogts who played on opposite sides during the 1974 World Cup Final between the Netherlands and West Germany.

DSC03240

A wander round Den Haag

DSC03099

After our visit to the Mauritshuis we decided to explore the town and grab a bite to eat. It was a cold, grey day, so not so great for sightseeing and taking photos, and we hadn’t really done any research about the sights, so we restricted ourselves to a brief, unstructured walk in the older area to the west of the museum, stopping off in a café for hot drink and a bite to eat.

The Mauritshuis is next to the Binnehof, the home of the Dutch Parliament. Despite this, security was minimal and we were able to walk right through the central courtyard

DSC03097

DSC03096

This is the Royal residence in the city, the Noordeinde Palace. It’s currently used as a “working palace” by the KIng.

DSC03132 Meandering through the old streets I was reminded a little of Brussels. Like the Belgian capital the streets were lined with individually designed buildings rather than regimented rows.And like Brussels, there were quite a few Art Nouveau influenced buildings. There was clearly much more to see but time was limited and it was cold! Here’s a few photos of some of the more interesting buildings we saw.

DSC03108

DSC03110

DSC03113

DSC03114

DSC03120

DSC03116

DSC03133

These are some of the Art Nouveau/ Jugendstil style, or influenced, buildings I spotted

DSC03101

DSC03107

DSC03100

DSC03117

DSC03121

DSC03122

DSC03134

DSC03136

DSC03137

DSC03138

DSC03148

This building, with it’s decorative brickwork, looked like it was influenced by the Amsterdam School, although there are also some Art Decoish features

DSC03126

This rather grand former restaurant is now the home of the Pathe Cinema

DSC03140

DSC03145

DSC03142

We had a peek inside

DSC03143