Public art sparks our imagination

Aalto University is the first university in Finland to commit to the principle of the art percent.
Kreutzstrasse by Gloria Lauterbach. Image: Mikko Raskinen / Aalto University
Gloria Lauterbach, ”Kreutzstrasse”, 2018. Image: Mikko Raskinen / Aalto University

Main image: Copper, steel, birch tree. Kreutzstrasse is a replica of a copper roof element torn off by a heavy storm from a church in Zurich, Switzerland in 2015. For the new Väre building, the roof remains have been recreated including the entangled birch tree.

The art percent is a funding model for art purchases, whereby approximately one percent of a building project’s funds are allocated to art purchases. 

Aalto University applies this principle to new construction and renovation projects, as well to expansions and infrastructural development. Art procurements are made either by purchasing finished works of art, commissioning site-specific pieces or organising art competitions. 

A strategy document has been prepared by the university in order to guide the procurement of public art. The approach is both structured and systematic in its vision. The renovated Dipoli and two of the new buildings on campus have each been assigned their own theme or artistic concept, the aim of which was to incorporate the views of the buildings’ users – primarily university staff and students – into the aesthetic of the buildings. 

Dipoli’s Radical Nature 

The Radical Nature art collection comprises 30 works selected specifically for the Dipoli building. The building, designed by architects Raili and Reima Pietilä was completed in 1966. 

The collection’s name, Radical Nature, not only references Dipoli’s wild spaces, with their varying shape, but also the sense of responsibility people feel for the wellbeing of nature and the environment as a whole. For example, in artist Renata Jakowleff’s work, the enchanting spectacle of thousands of glass droplets can be seen sparkling in front of a backdrop of concerns about marine pollution. 

The exhibited artworks are by Aalto University alumni and represent numerous different fields. The majority of the works are from recognised and experienced photographers such as Elina Brotherus, Jorma Puranen, Ulla Jokisalo, and Ilkka Halso. Three site-specific pieces where commissioned for the Dipoli building: Christian Berg’s kinetic acrylic installation Color Space – Color Lensing Blind, Renata Jakowleff’s glasswork masterpiece Blue, and Inni Pärnänen’s plywood wall ornament Keto (Engl. ‘Meadow’). 

Aalto-yliopisto Väre Grönlund Nisunen INSIGHT Kuva: Mikko Raskinen
Tommi Grönlund and Petteri Nisunen, ”Insight”, 2018. Image: Mikko Raskinen / Aalto University

Mirror, aluminium, stainless steel, electric rotators. Insight offers the viewers constantly altering viewpoints, underlining how our common environment is seen is various ways, none of which is as such better than the other. 

Väre – Global Equality 

The artistic themes of the collection on display in Väre, the School of Arts, Design and Architecture’s new building, elicit a characteristically Finnish sense of social equality and emphasise the school’s strong international identity. There is a conceptual emphasis on the important role art plays in sparking public debate. 

The collection’s artworks address a wide array of issues, including identity and difference, nationality, asylum-seeking, gender, and sexuality. The works are fundamentally brave and arresting precisely because they are placed under the direct scrutiny of both current and future artists and other professionals in the field of the arts. 

In total, there are around 25 works of art. In fact, the collection includes works by alumni, former professors, and current students. Broad both in terms of their scope and range of media, the artworks consist of textiles, ceramics, photography, painting, drawings, and sculptures. Multimedia art also comes to the fore in the shape of the everchanging info boards and in the exhibition spaces themselves. 

There are three site-specific artworks: Tommi Grönlund and Petteri Nisunen’s installation Insight, Kirsi Kaulanen’s steel sculpture Lumen, and student Gloria Lauterbach’s sculpture Kreutzstrasse, situated on the concrete wall adjoining Väre and the School of Business. 

Aalto-yliopisto Mikko Raskinen Lumen Väre
Kirsi Kaulanen, ”Lumen”, 2018. Image: Mikko Raskinen / Aalto University

Lasercut and welded stainless steel. Lumen connects hard technology with nature and feminity. The site-specific artwork interplays with the architectural space by stretching from floor to ceiling and adding ornamentation to the straight lines of the space. 

The School of Business takes a human approach 

In transitioning from the School of Business situated in the district of Töölö to the Otaniemi campus in Espoo, artistic means were employed to smooth the way and create a new identity during a time of great change. 

Central to the current school’s operations is the notion of human interaction and it was this concept that the procured artworks evoked. This conceptual approach sought to pay homage to the past while always keeping one eye on the future. For example, the china clay used by artist Kirsi Kivivirta harks back to the relief work façade of the School of Business’ former main building. The piece is entitled Stage and conjures up a scenographic atmosphere in the way it conveys a space for people to meet and exchange thoughts. 

Text: Paula Haikarainen

This article was first published in Aalto University Campus journal in December 2018.

Aalto University campus journal

The campus development journal examines eg. what Otaniemi looks like in 2050, how to add more green to the campus as well as how a startup ecosystem works.

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