Modern Times Forever (Stora Enso Building, Helsinki)

3 Apr

Last night I caught the end of Modern Times Forever (Stora Enso Building, Helsinki). This exceptionally long film (240 hours) by the Danish art group Superflex shows the disintegration of one of Helsinki’s most iconic buildings, Alvar Aalto‘s 1962 Stora Enso building (visible to the left of the screen in the pictures below).

Nicknamed “the sugar cube” for its high Modernist pure white Carrara marble exterior, the building has spurred intense responses–both positive and negative–among Helsinki’s residents. As the slow destruction of this historic landmark unfurls within view of the existing structure, the film functions like a memento mori–a reminder of the fragility and transiency of life.

The installation was part of the IHME Contemporary Art Festival in Helsinki.


6 Responses to “Modern Times Forever (Stora Enso Building, Helsinki)”

  1. Late April 3, 2011 at 10:57 am #

    Interesting film. I guess it’s no longer running then? I have to say that I’m not a fan of the building itself (at least not in this location). I think good architecture should fit into its environment. It’s sad that they tore down the original building, which was a much better fit for this setting. You can find a picture of the original here:

    It’s pretty ironic that people are trying to protect this building due to its historic value, even though the reason it even exists is preciselly the disregard for the historic value of old building that was the trend in the 60s and 70s.

    • hellosinki April 3, 2011 at 4:14 pm #

      Hello and thank you for your comment! Also, kind thanks for the link of the former structure where Aalto’s building now sits. It was really fascinating to see how seamlessly this previous building fit into the Katajanokka sea line. Aalto’s Stora Enso Building might appear more integrated if more examples of contemporary architecture populated this space, but this view has proven to be rather unpopular among Helsinki’s residents.

      The Helsinki Harbor is such an interesting splice of real estate! This area has stoked such endless controversy from this Aalto building to more recent (and recently aborted) architectural ventures like the Herzog deMeuron Hotel.

      • Late April 5, 2011 at 4:34 pm #

        Yeah, it’s a very central place so it’s bound to be attractive peace of land for businesses, but it’s going to be difficult to come up with a modern design that fits in with all the old buildings. Helsinki is already starting to look like a patchwork with the random sprinkling of ill fitting modern buildings. I’d hope that they would take the surroundings more into consideration in the future. An example of a good design, which I think fits well into its surroundings despite being very modern at the same time, is the design for the new Helsinki University library. Cool designs have a tendency to be watered down due to cost cutting, but I hope the finished building will be faithful to the original concept.

        A few pics of the library design:

        At least it looks much better than what used to be there:

        One less “bathroom tile” building in Helsinki. 🙂

      • hellosinki April 5, 2011 at 5:05 pm #

        The harbor is definitely central and desirable for its location, but it feels like it is totally misused (or unused) at present. Sometimes when you visit the harbor, it is completely empty! For such prime real estate, this seems like maybe a missed opportunity for the city of Helsinki. The statue of the Havis Amanda is really beautiful in my opinion, but it is surrounded by tracks for the tram. Surely, there should be a way to organize the space better and draw more people into this area.

        The question of architecture and its relationship to environment is tricky. As an American, I am conditioned to seeing the patchwork, hodgepodge aesthetic that is so present in American cities. Ideally, great architecture should take into account its environment, but needless to say, an architect must not repeat the past.

        Thank you again for the links! The new library for the University of Helsinki is a definite improvement. I look forward to seeing the completed building! Agreed–no more bathroom tile buildings. There are so many of these around Helsinki–they look so sad and dated!

        “Every time a student walks past a really urgent, expressive piece of architecture that belongs to his college, it can help reassure him that he does have that mind, does have that soul.”
        –Louis Kahn

  2. dave treece April 4, 2011 at 4:31 pm #

    and yet, Uspenskin katedraali seems impervious.

    • hellosinki April 4, 2011 at 4:57 pm #

      Very true. The Uspenski Cathedral stands on high, looking down on Alvar Aalto’s sugar cube. I heard that the area around the Uspenski in the Katajanokka peninsula was actually quite shady when it was built in the 1860’s. Nonetheless this spot was chosen so that the cathedral would become the highest structure in Helsinki at that time.

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