A Timeless Message to Humanity – Finnish Architect Aarno Ruusuvuori

Hyvinkää Church ©Tuomas Uusheimo

Our book OEN Issue 1 profiled Japanese architect Tadao Ando’s work. I visited each location personally and documented these spaces with just my camera, taking notes during or after the visit. His concrete structures conjure a mixture of feelings and seem to be very divisive in the design community. I often find myself having to explain the importance of Ando’s architecture, which is sad considering the genius behind it.

I still think back to my visits, especially to the Chichu Art Museum on Naoshima and the Church of Light in Osaka, as some of my fondest experiences architecturally. It’s architecture that you have to experience physically and embrace wholly. For Ando to have the defiance and will to stick with his concept and belief as a creative is no mean feat and one I really admire.

Ando said, “I wanted to design a place that would enrich the visitor spiritually, regardless of Buddhist or Christian beliefs.” I can certainly feel this presence. We all have inspirations though, those that stack and fold in to our work, especially as a young creative when you are so malleable to any input that comes your way.

Hyvinkää Church ©Tuomas Uusheimo

Assembly Hall, Tapiola Church ©Wikimedia Commons

Assembly Hall, Tapiola Church ©Urbipedia

In Ando’s early days as a young student of architecture he visited many European countries, one being Finland, a country that is renowned for modern design. Aarno Ruusuvuori (1925-1992) was a lesser-known architect that he had in mind. With a lack of funds Ando supposedly walked 12 kilometres to get to Ruusuvuori’s Tapiola Church designed in 1965 just so he could experience the space in person. Quite a bold move that proved vital in his development as an architect.

Aarno Ruusuvuori was Finnish architect, professor and director of the Museum of Finnish Architecture. Many know him as the designer of the Helsinki City Hall in Helsinki, little of which links to Ando’s work, but look closer at the Tapiola Church and the Hyvinkää Church and you start to see many similarities.

Ruusuvuori spent his early years training alongside Aulis Blomstedt, a renowned modernist architect and architectural theoretician in the decades following the Second World War. The basis for his work orientated around standardisation, proposing highly elaborate proportional systems based on harmonics in music. This was quite a contrast to Finnish designer Alvar Aalto, who approached his architecture much more organically.

Huutoniemi Lutheran Church Exterior ©Wikimedia Commons

Roihuvuori School ©Kuvio Architectural Photography

Roihuvuori School ©Kuvio Architectural Photography

Aarno used this training, along with his several study tours to the Nordic Countries, Central and Southern Europe, and the United States and India, to think deeply about our connection to ancient history and our shared cultural heritage. One example might be the church at Hyvinkää that was supposedly inspired by the pyramids at Giza. Using steep, angular forms that jut out. Almost as if these building landed from another galaxy.

Some may view Ruusuvuori as a strict modernist, which does explain some of the rules at play in his work, but his search for meaning was anything but. By seeing his associations to historic places it’s obvious that his true intent was to design buildings with a timeless appeal. A monolithic appeal that links us to both past and future and shows what can be achieved using human spirit.

And, some of this spirit still lives on through Tadao Ando, who has also been steadfast in his approach. There’s architecture, then there are icons. Sculptural works that will transcend time and live on after us as monuments. You know when you’ve stepped inside the world of Aarno Ruusuvuori or Tadao Ando, and we are better off for it.


Roihuvuori School ©Kuvio Architectural Photography

Finnish Architect Aarno Ruusuvuori