Grinding a Gem

architect Alvar Aalto
project Viipuri Library, Vyborg, Russia
written by Severi Blomstedt


Municipal library of Viipuri, completed in 1935, is not only one of the masterpieces of the international Modernism but also a fascinating chapter in Alvar Aalto´s own career. Alongside his Paimio Sanatorium, designed simultaneously with it, the library marks a crucial change in Aalto´s architecture. In 1927, he won the library competition with a project that was purely classicistic. This was natural, because in the 1920s, Nordic Classicism was the prevailing style in Scandinavian architecture. However, due to a long planning process, the architecture of the library went through several metamorphoses, and the final result is the architectural treasure of which we can enjoy even today when the library has been carefully restored.