Besides, we have to remember that since the 1990s until 2010 our economy and our life were based on the Nokia Company. The budget of that company (in its best years) was bigger than the budget of the state of Finland, but we do not have Nokia anymore. Somehow, our society is now also a little bit helpless about how to find new innovations. All this affects the architecture because there is a clear link between buildings and our social life. We can notice sings of stagnation in our architecture today.
Thirdly, in every big project, we have a “process management” company which is supervising schedules and budgets. It has a very big power and it eliminates the freedom of the architect. All these three factors are making the role of an architect really weak. Therefore, Finnish architects really need to find their own way to approach architecture. Neither can we operate with structures or with very handmade works, so that our strong side is the ability to create good atmospheres and the ability to relate the buildings and their scales to the environment.
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RM: Nowadays I am interested in an Australian architect called . Late 1980s and 1990s was a really good time for him, creating really high quality architecture, but, at the same time, within the nature. However, he is the second one for me. The first architect I will pick is called , from Burkina Faso. He is the type of an architect that we need today because he is not just a designer. He has studied in Berlin and he has “transported” the European knowledge to his home town, adapting it to the new circumstances: the skills of local people, local materials… This is the definition of sustainable architecture.
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RM: Yes. One important point is our economy during the second half of the XXth century. In the 50s-60s, our economy was based on agriculture and industrial forestry; and most of the people were living in the countryside. But at the end of the 1960s people started to move to the big cities, process that is still going on. So that, the Finnish population is now separated into two parts: people living in Helsinki region (and some more big cities, 5 or 6 in total, no more) and people living in the countryside. These big cities have really serious problems with economy nowadays in order to maintain our life style, libraries, health care and school systems…
MS: Of course, the new communications and ways of living and the economical situation obviously affect the architecture. However, I would like to underline that the basic values needed for human beings have not changed: how to build quality in accordance with the environment, how to make nice spaces with good materials that touch human beings, how to use natural light, how to connect a building to the landscape… All these aspects are basically still the same.
RM: We have the same problem as most of our colleagues all over the world: we are a little bit helpless with this big issue. We are focusing on our own country; we don’t have international names like Alvar Aalto was. He really understood the meaning of human life and the role of architects in this process.
RM: Architects, interior designers, landscape architects, engineers, energy consumption experts… However in Finland, we can summarize all these professions in two groups: the architects and the people with technical knowledge.
RM: Scandinavian architecture is also really important. Sweden, Norway and Denmark have a close history, common ground, while Finland is a little bit further of them. However, there are clear differences between the architects of the area, more than in other European regions. In Finland, the wood and how to use it is really important, usually in small scale buildings. The company K2S is a good example. About public buildings, the architect is usually chosen by a public competition. Finland is a country with a small population and a small number of architects. That means that the winning entries of a competition are always following the style of the moment, you cannot win a competition if your architecture is very strange.
This article is an excerpt of her essay written for the Research and Theory of Architecture course under the supervision of professor Anna-Maija Ylimaula. Bermejo interviewed two Finnish architects from well-known architecture studios working today: Rainer Mahlamäki (Lahdelma & Mahlamäki Architects) and Matti Sanaksenaho (Sanaksenaho Architects) in order to hear what the architects want to say and to better understand the principles behind designing contemporary architecture.