Alvar Aalto

Nordic House. Reykjavík

Alvar Aalto, Nordic House

Alvar Aalto. photos: © Dieter Janssen

Nordic House by Alvar Aalto shot by Dieter Janssen.


A modest 1962 building built late in Aalto’s career, the Nordic House was and remains a symbol of Scandinavian common ambition. Modest in scale, the building has a lecture room, library, children’s space, cafeteria and supporting office spaces for a director and five guest lecturers.

The site is identified by a small pond and a built-up landmass within the Vatnsmýri marsh next to Reykjavik. The building is a low, white painted brick capped by an organic blue-glazed ceramic mass formed to evoke the various glaciers around Iceland. A series of shaped skylights bring light into the main lobby and two-level library. Aalto’s frequent trips beyond Finland introduced a view of the landscape outside the plane’s window, revealing the many lakes around Helsinki. These organic shapes became a signature of his work, and the glacier-like volume continues that narrative.

These photos move around and through the building. Rather than documenting the building, the intent is rather to witness moments as material effects, plays on form, and fragments of transparency in the build-up of spaces.