Docomomo International Conference: Finland

TapiolaIn early August, roughly thirty Americans joined our Docomomo colleagues in Finland for the 12th annual Docomomo International Conference entitled The Survival of Modern, From Coffee Cup to General Plan. The week-long event took place in Tapiola, the lush garden city neighborhood of Espoo, and included a number of evening receptions in Helsinki and more in-depth Doco Tours throughout the area. With delightful temperatures in the low 70s and long days where the sun hovered at the horizon during the evenings, Docomomo US members were treated to stimulating discussions of the challenges facing architecture and conservation professionals across the globe.

Of the three and a half days of presentations and panel sessions including discussions on Public Urban Spaces, the Survival of Modern Architecture in Asia and Africa, Architectural Problem Solving, and Preserving Infrastructure many of the rooms were to capacity and featured a spirited discussion of the topics. One such session entitled Heroic Examples included presentation on Brutalist architecture from panelists in Belgrade, Lithuania, Brazil and Boston. In one of the more challenging presentations, the Finnish architect Juhani Pallasmaa opened the conference with his keynote, Tradition, Newness and Identity – Existential Meaning in Architecture. “Hyper-contemporary”, as Pallasmaa suggested, in which new architecture exists without a reflection of the past, fails when it deviates from the original purpose of domesticity and defining space for human occupation. In a bit of architectural irony, Pallasmaa continued by suggesting this newness or request for uniqueness makes for boring architecture.
 
Joining our members, Docomomo US was able to offer two scholarships to graduate students studying historic preservation in the United States. With the generous support of the Finlandia Foundation, Jennifer Whisenhunt and Mary Park, students from the Columbia University Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation were able to attend and participate in the conference activities. As incoming Docomomo ISC on Education and Theory interns, Jennifer and Mary presented the activities of the committee and in partnership with Theodore Prudon, the committee chair, discussed expectations for the next two years and upcoming collaborations.
 
Image: Interns- Mary Park and Jennifer Whisenhunt
 
Three new chapters were welcomed during the general assembly meeting including Docomomo China (provisional), Docomomo Georgia (provisional), Docomomo Hong Kong (provisional), Docomomo Iran, Docomomo Lebanon, Docomomo Macau (provisional) and Docomomo Ukraine. 
 
Similarly to previous conferences, the once-in-a-lifetime Doco Tours were a highlight to the week and offered participants with unique evening or day-long excursions to locations throughout Finland and beyond. Not surprisingly many of the works of Alvar Aalto were visited including Finlandia Hall, the Otaniemi Technical University and Paimio Sanatorium. Other tours included day excursions to Tallinn, Estonia; Vyborg, Russia; and sites in south-western Finland.
 
In total, the Finland conference was both stimulating as it was agreeable. We would like to thank the host chapter, Docomomo Chair Ana Tostoes, Ivan Blasi, and to the large group of Docomomo US members who joined us. We look forward to seeing even more of you at the 13th Docomomo International Conference to be held for the first time in Asia by Docomomo Korea.
 
Image (from left to right): Docomomo co-founder Wessel de Jonge, Docomomo US Board member Jon Buono, Edgar Garcia of the City of Los Angeles Planning Dept., Flora Chou of the LA Conservancy, Mark Pasnik of Boston and Chandler McCoy of Docomomo US/NOCA.
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