Lord Foster, one of the world's leading contemporary architects, is collaborating with the Ambassador of Finland to help save a building by one of the greatest architects of an earlier generation, the Finnish modernist Alvar Aalto (1898-1976).
One of Aalto's greatest works, the Viipuri Library, completed in 1935, is where he devised many of the features for which he is best known. Designed as a beacon of enlightenment, learning and democracy, it fell victim to the political upheavals of World War II, as the city of Viipuri was ceded by Finland to the Soviet Union. Although cherished by its users and staff, the library's physical condition has declined ever since to a point where Aalto's great vision is in danger of disappearing altogether.
Lord Foster, the Ambassador of Finland and other friends of Alvar Aalto's architecture have launched a Charitable Trust in the UK to raise awareness of the library's plight and money for its restoration. This is part of an international campaign to save the library, co-ordinated by a committee chaired by Martti Ahtisaari, the former Finnish president who was born in Viipuri. These efforts will help to ensure that the magnificent reading room with its trademark hemispherical roof lights, the grand staircase, and the lecture room with its innovative undulating timber ceiling, will continue to serve as the city library and inspire architects and librarians across the world.
The Trustees are: The Rt Hon Lord Foster of Thamesbank; Ambassador Pertti Salolainen; Mr Michael Spens; Mr Jeremy Melvin; and Mr Harold Charrington.
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