Monday, September 27, 2010

Kalevalakehto at night

You think it's gorgeous in the day, this one proves she's a looker at all hours of the day with the addition of a few peripheral candles.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Kalevalakehto poetic

Poetic poem created during the 9 day charette in January at the Embassy of Finland in Washington, DC. Pictures depict the opening ceremony on August 26, 2010.

What's this Kalevala you speak of?

New to Spirit of Place - Spirit of Design? What in the world is the Kalevala we've been incessantly posting about? Fear no more, Kalevala 101 to your rescue. We were lucky enough to get a hold of the text from the curator from the Ateneum Art Museum's fabulous Kalevala exhibition last year to answer all of your Kalevala related questions and then some. For more information feel free to visit the Kalevala Society fantastic webpage. Browse around and once you've soaked it all in, ask yourself, "What's MY kalevala?" You can find this permanent post by clicking on this link.

About the Kalevala
(source:  Kalevala Exhibition at the Ateneum Art Museum, 2009)


The Kalevala was published for the first time in 1835 and in a revised edition in 1849. The publisher was the Finnish Literature Society, which promoted the collection of old folk poetry.

Finnish rune-singing has a tradition going back over 2000 years. The poems are in a distinctive alliterative four-beat metre (trochaic tetrameter) that came to be known as 'Kalevala metre'.

They were sometimes sung to a kantele accompaniment. The ancient singing tradition was strong throughout the country up to the 16th century but began to weaken after the Reformation.

Elias Lönnrot gathered some of the poems together to form a single epic narrative. The result was a story with a continuous plot, held together in places with new additions.

When the Kalevala was published, Finland was an autonomous Grand Duchy of the Russian Empire. Right from the start, the work played a major role in strengthening the standing of the Finnish language and culture. The Kalevala began to be thought of as the country's national epic, and its publication aroused immediate interest abroad, too. To date, it has been translated into over 60 languages.

The Kalevala story begins with a description of the creation of the world and ends at the beginning of a new cultural era, when Christianity reaches Finland. It describes mythical events, the battles and heroic deeds
of two warring clans, the peoples of Kalevala and Pohjola.

The Kalevala has inspired artists in many disciplines. Its stories have been turned into not only visual art but also opera, comic strips, heavy rock, poetry, prose, drama and dance.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Pekka Hako: The Interview

Pekka Hako worked as the Cultural Counselor when the students at Catholic University and Aalto University gathered at the Embassy of Finland in Washington, DC for a 9 day design charette to determine the design of what ultimately became the Kalevalakehto on Seurasaari. An avid filmmaker, Pekka knows what makes a story and how to capture it, but also easily manages to be the entertainment himself. There's never a dull moment when Pekka is around! I asked him some questions to which he responded with the following (again, never a dull moment!)

BW: Why and when did you stop loving the Kalevala ?  
PH: I never started. The Kalevala is, or was, obligatory reading at school, and I found it rather boring at the time. My links to the national epic are mostly indirect – i.e., via the music of Sibelius, the paintings of Gallen-Kallela, etc. 
BW: Have you ever actually read it as a great book? Recently?
PH: No.
BW: How did you get involved with Travis Price and the Kalevalakehto / Spirit of Place?
PH: I guess I have played a not inconsiderable role in the project. Travis came to Helsinki in connection with the Helsinki-Washington [My Helsinki] programme two years ago, and it started from there. I met Travis in Washington a couple of times, and the idea seemed interesting. The rest is history.
BW: What has this venture done to revive your perceptions of the Kalevala?
PH: Not much yet, but I expect it will help.
BW: What is one of the most amusing and odd things this has and is bringing to life?
PH: Don’t know about amusing or odd, but the project has certainly brought a new lease of life to the outdoor museum island of Seurasaari which has been in search of purpose for quite some time.
BW: What is your spirit of place, your sacred space, where do you go again and again to commune with the sacred?
PH: Uh-oh… a tall order. My sacred space is the City of Helsinki, its parks, streets and the sea. 
BW: Do you think the Kalevala story can go beyond “the Lord of the Rings”, Kalevalakehto, and if so where would you take it next.
PH: Someone will undoubtedly write a rock musical around it sooner or later.
BW: Who are you? What is the Finnish spirit to you?
PH: I’m largely a stranger to myself. The Finnish spirit is a combination of extreme ambition and low self esteem. No other nation would have rushed to demand a recount after the recent Newsweek magazine Best Country in the World award.
BW: What’s your favorite salmon recipe?
PH: One containing as little salmon as possible.
BW: Do you believe in metaphors?
PH: No. Anything can mean anything to anyone. It’s a matter of agreement.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Day 9 construction

Check out another day of construction from the build. Day 9!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

making headlines

Check us out! 

US Embassy in Finland. Click here.
This Is Finland, web magazine of Finnish Foreign Ministry. Click here.
Helsinki City Hall Virka Gallery Student Exhibition. Click here.
Helsinki Design Week article. Click here.
Helsinki Sanomat, International Edition article. Click here.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

embassy life

US Ambassador to Finland Bruce Oreck, graciously invited us to the US Embassy of Finland for a pizza lunch during the construction of the Kalevalakehto. We were hoping our time schedule would be on target to allow ourselves a moment of refueling and needless to say, the team made all efforts to do so (you would too with that type of invitation right?). With a delicious and healthy feast of homemade pizza on rye, Ambassador Oreck did not disappoint. He gave a brief speech based on a recent address to a group interested in green business with a message that it doesn't matter what other people are doing in the field, it matters what you are doing. He traced the development of the green movement starting with Henry David Thoreau's poem "Walden Pond" and how it affected John Muir, which influenced Teddy Roosevelt, which in turn reached Rachel Carson of Silent Spring, and trickled down to the progress that's been made today. All of these changes based on the power of just one person. 
Not just talking the the talk, but walking the walk, he led us to the site where he and his wife keep bees. We can't thank him and the embassy staff enough for such a pleasant afternoon and for their massive support on this project. Thank you!

Thursday, September 2, 2010