Le Corbusier's Notre Dame du Haut and Aalto's Church of the Three Crosses presented side by side.
Le Corbusier's Notre Dame du Haut (1954) and Aalto's Church of the Three Crosses (1958). pictures: Jari Jetsonen

Le Corbusier & Alvar Aalto. Reflections – photographs by Jari Jetsonen in Tallinn

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many exhibitions and events have been either cancelled or rescheduled.


Le Corbusier & Alvar Aalto. Reflections
18 January – 29 March 2020
Estonian Museum of Architecture
Ahtri 2, Tallinn

The Estonian Museum of Architecture presents the works of two giants of 20th-century architecture, Le Corbusier and Alvar Aalto, as seen through the lens of a recognised Finnish photographer Jari Jetsonen.

He has also been photographing Alvar Aalto’s architecture for over 20 years and has published several books of photographs on Aalto’s work, Finnish church architecture and saunas. Also, Jetsonen has taught at Helsinki University of Technology, Nihon University as well as at Aalto University.

As a dedicated photographer of architecture, he became fascinated by the points of contact and similarities in the forms and ideas in both the buildings and thinking of the two seemingly oppositional architects. What becomes important is the point of view of the artist and the way he sees buildings.

Le Corbusier’s new white architecture made a lasting impression on the young Alvar Aalto in summer 1928, when the architect first travelled to Paris with his wife Aino Aalto. This trip opened his eyes to Modernism. At the time, Aalto never met Le Corbusier; however, he did get to know his work, such as the newly completed Villa Stein in Garches. It is the same international functionalism that inspired the best-known works by Aalto from that period, like the building for the Turun Sanomat newspaper and the Paimio Sanatorium.

Later, the two men met on the international architecture scene several times, although, they ended up taking very different creative paths – one is often known as a rigid rationalist and theorist, the other as a creator of emotional spaces, inspired by landscape and culture.

Jetsonen’s view of their work shows that such classifications are relative and more than simply the personas of the two architects, the autonomy of architecture and general spatial qualities such as light and shadow, the positioning of the architectural volumes, emerging views, connection to place and nature are also highlighted. Images, mostly juxtaposed in pairs, are simultaneously specific and universal, while singing with praise for the ability of the classics of modern architecture to remain captivating and relevant even half a century later.

In writing the accompanying text for the exhibition, Juhani Pallasmaa, one of the best-known Finnish architecture theorists, compares the two men, and states that as an architect, author and person, Le Corbusier played a significant role in shaping modern architecture and culture. However, Alvar Aalto’s biological, psychological and empathic way of thinking that focuses on “little man” has so much more to offer in today’s world, considering the uncertainty of our future.

video: Jari Jentsonen

More information on Estonian Architecture Museum’s English website here.