Ikea, Canoeing, and Bob Dylan

As a core part of the Furniture Design in Scandinavia program, we took a one week Study Tour across Sweden and Finland. Making stops in a range from large manufactures to small architectural icons, we spend most of the trip in Stockholm and Helsinki. The trip was a ton of fun, and though I can’t cover everything, here are some of the highlights.

Canoeing in the Swedish countryside was fantastic, and after we were done, we had Elk burgers for dinner. The mosquitos weren’t that bad either.
The design headquarters of Ikea – it’s bigger on the inside.
I don’t know if it could get any more Swedish than eating meatballs and salmon at the Ikea Museum
The old town in Stockholm incredibly beautiful and a little cramped, just like almost every old town in Europe. This one smelled a lot nicer though – there were restaurants on almost every corner.
We went to a chair museum in Stockholm – this is about 1/12th of the whole collection.
I went to a fantastic Bob Dylan concert with a few friends in Stockholm, and because he has a strict no photo policy, this shot of escalators might be the next best thing.
The outside of the Stockholm Public Library designed by Gunnar Asplund in 1928.
I already made the bad joke of ‘it’s bigger on the inside,’ but I mean it this time.
Here’s a shot of the downtown highway, which might be little boring, but what really interests me is the ‘day to day’ architecture and design of objects. I love the sense of seeing what people who live here see, not the tourist spots. Famous buildings and monuments are great, but I, again, love to see the world of Stockholm that’s inhabited by residents. There’s something about the subtle differences between their world and mine that I find fascinating.
After lunch, we went to Skogskyrkogården, the massive cemetery also designed by Gunnar Asplund. I didn’t take many photos besides this one, but it captures the vastness of it. From where I was standing to the tiny door at the end of the path is a kilometer.
We took an overnight ferry from Stockholm to Turku, though calling it ‘night’ is a bit of a stretch. We were so far north that the sun briefly ducked under the horizon only for about two or three hours between dusk and dawn. I took this photo of the ferry’s wake around midnight.
Finland is outstandingly beautiful. Seeing the country that my family is from gave me a sense of pride that I haven’t felt before, and there was also a distinct sense of familiarity. I felt like I had a connection to the land, because of my heritage, and also because Northern Wisconsin, in the deeply Finnish community where my grandparents live, looks remarkably similar. There were countless times that I had to do a double take because the landscape was just so familiar.
I took this photo from the highway after we left the A-Factory, where all the furniture for Artek is manufactured. We weren’t allowed to take photos there, which was a bummer because it was so cool.
We stopped at the Paimio Sanatorium designed by Alvar Aalto in 1929. It was a former tuberculosis sanatorium, turned hospital, then turned rehabilitation center. It’s such a massive object just hiding in the Finnish forests.
The cantina.
A conference room.
It’s the sense of scale which strikes me most about the sanatorium. It’s both grandiose, yet human scaled.
Grandiose here for sure.
On our way to Helsinki we stopped in Fiskars, the town where your orange scissors came from. We were there for a few hours and I walked up to a greenhouse, and later I went to the town forge and bought a bottle opener, and three birch spoons at small shop.
We got to Helsinki and had the rest of the night off, and I walked around the city center for a few hours. The next day we went to Hvitträsk, which was the studio home for the architect firm Gesellius, Lindgren, and Saarinen, and later became the home of Eliel Saarinen. It was beautiful, and is a prime example of the Finnish National Romantic style.

After Hvitträsk we went to the Rock Church then stopped at the Central Station, and after that we had the opportunity to go to the Kiasma, the contemporary art museum. It was refreshing to see art, since this program is so design focused. Also, I go to the Minneapolis College of Art and Design, and as you can guess I like to have both.

Nervescape VIII – Shoplifter
Looking up through an underground window near the city center.

The rest of the day was spent going to more museums and the Artek store, and in the evening we all went to the public sauna, Löyly. Sitting in a 150+ degree sauna and then jumping into the fringed Baltic Sea (twice!) is something worth remembering.

The last thing we did before we left was go the Alvar Aalto house and studio, which are both amazing and hugely influential places in the history of design.

Early in the afternoon we rode a bus to the airport and took a plane back to Copenhagen. Though I loved every minute of the week we spent in Sweden and Finland, the slow pace of Denmark was a nice the contrast to the non-stop action of the trip.

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