An Expedition to Sweden & Finland

Hej! I have been busy for the past few weeks, traveling and designing. Nevertheless, let me share an awesome experience of mine, a study tour to Sweden and Finland.

The group consisted of 17 students who were a mix of different design disciplines, such as, architecture, interior architecture, and urban design. Our journey required a huge bus, and Martin was our cheerful and friendly driver. Our tour faculty member was Joshua Morrison, who was the same instructor for my urban design studio, and Emily Friedenberg, who assisted Joshua in study tour and planner for the whole expedition.

The study tour took 8 days, leaving from København to Stockholm. Then, we took a cruise ship from Stockholm to Turku. From there, we visited different cities in Finland, such as, Helsinki, Jyväskylä, and Fiskars. Throughout the journey, we visited several places, ranging from urban to rural settings.

Reflecting on my study tour, I was fascinated how the Scandinavians pushed the design boundaries by blurring a typical design expression of a building function. For instance, we visited Stockholm Public Library, designed by Swedish architect Gunnar Asplund. The library uses a traditional sense of a typical library. Inspired by Egyptian’s architecture, the architect used strong geometrical form, and decorated the interior space with books in the cabinet.

Helsinki Central Library, known as OODI, was another library we visited. It is also my favourite library to visit. The library interior’s highest floor blurs the traditional space of a library by incorporating imitated landscape using interior wood finishing. The ceiling imitates the design of a wavy cloud.

Helsinki University Main Library emphasizes the grand entrance by incorporating a huge sky light. Because the opening of every floor is different in scale, it creates an optical and spatial illusion. I couldn’t help myself but be in awe when looking into the skylight.

From Left to Right: Stockholm Public Library, OODI, Helsinki University Main Library

Scandinavian buildings respect the surrounding nature of the settings. For example, we visited Naturum Tåkern, a bird sanctuary located in wetland. The building is covered in reed, disguised as a birdwatcher’s blind, concealing its interior from the natural surrounding.

Artipelag, an art gallery we visited in our study tour. The building is located on a hillside overlooking Braggen Bay in the Stockholm archipelago. The building camouflages into the natural landscape and is impossible to see in it entirely from any one angle.

From Top to Bottom: Naturum Tåkern, Artipelag

Not just the Scandinavians push their design boundary, the well-known Finnish architect, Alvar Alto, pushes his own design to his next level. For instance, in Säynätsalo Town Hall, Alto incorporates traditional construction method using bricks and wood, and clerestory for sunlight to enhance the warm atmosphere in the interior.

As for Muuratsalo Experimental House, another project of Alto, pushes the design of using brick material by laying out the bricks’ position in different variation. As a result, the brick wall offers rich of texture and pattern when one is viewing it.

From Left to Right: Säynätsalo Town Hall, Muuratsalo Experimental House

Besides learning architecture, we got to immerse the activities and cultural experience in Scandinavia. For example, we learned to play Pétanque, a sport where teams are required to throw boules closer to the target than your opponent after all boules have been thrown to score points.

The most extraordinary experience had to be the traditional Finnish Sauna and picking wild blue berries. The sauna is in a wooden hut, located next to a countryside setting. The goal is to sweat as much as possible in the sauna. Then, leave the sauna and take a dip into the cold lake. We did the process repeatedly until we are satisfied! After sauna, we searched for wild blueberries deep in the bushes on the valley. Finding blueberries was like treasure hunting. They were sweet and delicious!

From Left to Right: Pétanque, Green Window Sauna, Picking Wild Blueberries

The most interesting experience for me was watching sunset towards the sea horizon at 1 am on the cruise. And the most bizarre part was that the sky does not get dark in the middle of midnight. Most of us are from countries near the equator. Therefore, we did not experience the partially midnight sun. It is a truly incredible feeling!

Sunset at 1 am

Time flies and we were back in Denmark. Although I got to learn to know more about other members by the end of the tour, memories and funny moments will be forever to be cherish!

Group Members of Team X (Photo Credit: Rachel Skof)

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