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Reindeer observation pavilion in the mountains at Hjerkinn, commissioned from Snøhetta by a local wild reindeer association.

Trees have memories – An evening with wood in Fiskars

This summer the big exhibition space in the former copper smithy in the Fiskars village and artist community has housed an exhibition titled WE LOVE WOOD(s)! Its curator and exhibition architect has been the Finnish architect Kirsi Gullichsen.

Within the context of the exhibition, a special lecture event was organised. The moderator, luckily briefly back in Finland, was Juhani Pallasmaa, considered to be the “flying guru of architecture” and an internationally known architecture thinker.

The invited lecturers came from Norway, where Kirsi Gullichsen had first met them and collaborated with some years ago. During the event, Juhani Pallasmaa told me about his recent enjoyable journey to Norway, and his acquaintance with some of its loveliest contemporary architecture and art.

The invited lecturers were professor and architect Beate Hølmebakk and architect Per Tamsen from Mantley Kula Architects in Oslo, and sculptor Knut Wold from Stange.

Fiskars - Tarja Nurmi
Juhani Pallasmaa, Beate Hølmebakk, Per Tamsen and Knut Wold. Photo by Tarja Nurmi

Beate Hølmebakk presented a selection of the most recent experimental works in Norway and elsewhere by Norwegian architects and closed off her presentation with examples of their own office’s work. She presented projects where wood as a material is approached in a new and inventive way. She even showed some ideas that could not have been realized without the help of digital technology.

Among the presented personalities and projects was Stian Korntved Ruud with his effort to exhaust a man-made type, the spoon, in a project called Daily Spoon. He had designed and carved a different wooden spoon for every day of the year. This work is exhausting and inventive at the same time, thus becoming “inventive by discipline”.

One of the 365 Daily Spoons, by Stian Korntved Ruud.
One of the 365 Daily Spoons by Stian Korntved Ruud.

Another project, simple in its own way, was a wooden “wall” and gate in China designed by Jensen & Skodvin. It has been built on location by local builders, and using simple, massive logs. It is an excellent example of the repetitive use of a single material. It is stunning and truly photogenic when decorated with Chinese red lanterns.

Näyttökuva 2015-9-10 kello 11.59.26
A wooden “wall” and gate in China designed by Jensen & Skodvin

Also presented was the work of Helen & Hard and Haugen & Zohar, both known for their work for children and the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. Included also was the world-famous reindeer observation pavilion in the mountains at Hjerkinn, commissioned from Snøhetta by a local wild reindeer association. It is proof of exquisite contemporary architecture also serving so-called slow tourism.

Fire Hut by Haugen & Zohar
Fire Hut by Haugen & Zohar

Manthey Kula itself is a small, hands-on office. The office has recently designed a wooden kiosk for Taipei in Taiwan for the purpose of presenting and distributing used books. The kiosk will be a part of the World Design Capital Program in 2016. Another of their recent projects is kind of an interpretation of Sverre Fehn’s unrealized Osaka Pavilion with its iconic lung-like objects. Among the wooden items presented in the exhibition in Fiskars is a lovely little corner cabinet also designed by these architects.

Knut Wold has a massive artwork in the exhibition. His presentation took us to an old farm comprising several buildings in Sörum, where he has lived for 17 years. The farm buildings were in a way leftover when the neighbour bought the land but not the buildings. Wold moved there first to work with his sculptures but has by since, together with architect Are Vesterlid, transformed it in a strangely and charmingly Carlo Scarpa-style manner. It has similarities with the way in which Scarpa worked on converting existing buildings in and near Verona.

Knut Wold’s farm in Stange
Knut Wold’s farm in Stange

Wold and Vestelid have worked with natural light in the large old barn and transformed it even to function as a small concert space. They have also added new parts to the main building and built a small new house, a so-called “guesthouse for exhausted urbanists”. The barn has been slowly and cunningly converted for the private use of Wold and for his work and events. A maximum amount of found and available material has been used, and the process has been slow enough due to the lack of money. Everything has required time, which always is the best assistant in thoughtful planning.

A book about the wooden farm is due to be published, with a short accompanying text by Juhani Pallasmaa. See the link to Pallasmaa’s text about the farm here.

The evening event ended with a discussion and a visit to the exhibition itself. The lecture was one of the most charming recent lectures about wood. This material should not be used only on the terms of the wood industry, but moreover we should listen to wood itself speaking. The building industry of today – so the speakers argued – mostly push products. Trees, however, have memories, stated the Norwegians, and they see no sense in the over-geometrization of wood.

The exhibition in Fiskars is open until September 20, 2015.

Text by Tarja Nurmi
English translation by Gareth Griffiths and Kristina Kölhi.