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The Alvar Aalto Symposium, which has established itself as a recognised architecture event, gathered nearly 400 architecture enthusiasts to the city of Jyväskylä over a span of three days. Held for the 12th time, the symposium addressed the different ways in which the theme crafted manifests itself in the complex relationship between material, craft, mass construction and culture. The lecturers and the architects, students, journalists and other participants from around the world once again produced a symposium that was rich with discussion and argument.

“This year’s Alvar Aalto Symposium was a great success. It is an honour to be involved in the organisation of an event that, every three years, brings together top experts in architecture. In the best-case scenario, the questions raised and the inspiring discussions held at the symposium will resonate for a long time after the event,” says the director of the Alvar Aalto Academy, Esa Laaksonen.

Held for the first time in 1979, the Alvar Aalto Symposium has earned its place as major architecture discussion forum both in Finland and internationally. In 2009, the symposium organisers, the Alvar Aalto Academy and the Alvar Aalto Museum, were granted the Pro Congress award by the Finland Convention Bureau (FCB). Currently, nearly half of the symposium participants come from outside Finland. Among the current participants are people who have been involved since the first symposium.

“I think the symposium has an important role in stirring current critical discussion. The attraction of the symposium comes from both the interesting themes and the attending people, whom one seldom gets to meet in such large numbers,” says the Australian architect Glenn Murcutt, who has won the Alvar Aalto Medal and the Pritzker Architecture Prize, and who has attended the symposium in previous years, both as a speaker and as an audience member.

This year’s theme “Crafted – the Ingredients of Architecture” produced quite diverse lectures. However, all the speeches emphasised a consideration of the surrounding environment and the use of wood and other traditional building materials.

Crafted received many interpretations in this year’s symposium. The basic idea was to address the ways in which simple building materials can be worked to create architecture. However, owing to dedicated and talented architects, the theme was approached from entirely new, unexpected angles,” says the symposium chair, Professor Pekka Heikkinen.

The bold and innovative bridge constructions by the Swiss structural engineer Jürg Conzett were a prime example of designs that pay careful attention to material choices and consider the environment. Anu Puustinen and Ville Hara, from Avanto Architects, presented the Chapel of St. Lawrence, a winning design in the European Copper in Architecture Awards. Designed by two Finnish architects, the chapel exhibits an exemplary use of space, light and a variety of materials.

Another speaker at the symposium was the world-renowned and recognised Norwegian architect Kjetil T. Thorsen. A founding member of the Snøhetta architects’ office, Thorsen is responsible for designing the extension of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA), the National September 11 Memorial Museum Pavilion, the Oslo Opera House and the Bibliotheca Alexandrina.

The Japanese architect couple Yui and Takaharu Tezuka, who, according to feedback from symposium participants, were the most loved speakers at the event, inspired and challenged the audience in the closing lecture of the symposium on Sunday to look at our built environment through the eyes of a child. The couple, who won an OECD award for the best educational facility, presented some of their other projects, which also displayed a user-driven, creative and playful touch. The idea of respecting and listening to the surrounding environment is strongly present in their designs.

The Symposium, held from 10 to 12 September 2012, was part of the World Design Capital Helsinki 2012 programme. The next Alvar Aalto Symposium will take place in 2015.

Crafted press release 22.8.2012 (PDF)

More information on the symposium:

Alvar Aalto Academy:
Producer Mari Forsberg,, tel. +358 45 679 0920
Director of the Alvar Aalto Academy Esa Laaksonen,, tel. +358 50 555 7330

Images of speakers’ projects and the symposium:

Press releases: