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Big Sur - Hiking Andrew Molera State Park

One of the great delights of living in the Bay Area is the proximity to the natural beauty of California and it's hard to beat the stunning drive down Highway One to Big Sur. This is certainly one of the iconic American road trips, but for me the joy of being in the area is getting out of your car and hitting a trail, so you can be "in" the landscape rather than just looking at it from the asphalt. 

Two Alvar Alto Buildings, Helsinki

One of the delights of visiting Helsinki was learning more about Alvar Aalto and having the opportunity to visit several of his famous modernist structure.s I'll be writing about his house museum and studio in another post, but here I want to take you on a walk we took from Aalto's Finlandia Hall to his Olympic stadium.
Nothing in Helsinki is too far away and public transportation (predominantly trams) makes it easy to navigate the city. Here is Finlandia Hall as we approached it from the main road. The other side of the building is more impressive. Designed in 1962 and completed a decade later this is both a concert hall venue and is used for meetings. We were disappointed not to see the inside of the building as the parliament was meeting there.
As you can see every aspect of the building is carefully designed including these wonderful Modernist bronze outdoor lights
Here's the view from the other side. I love this facade which is both austere and decorative in terms of the texture. It is very impressive in person and reminded us of Brasilia.
I love the energy and rhythm in the building design which you can see below. There's a sense of drama and movement here.
The structure faces towards a lovely lake which we walked around.
Below you can see Finlandia Hall from across the lake, where we stopped to have a drink at a modest cafe.
After visiting Finlandia Hall we walked to the Olympic stadium passing this glasshouse on the way.
The story of the 1952 Helsinki Olympics is fascinating. Aalto designed his stadium for the 1940 Olympic Games. The games were initially planned for Tokyo were moved to Helsinki and then cancelled by the outbreak of war in Europe. After the war the 1948 games were held in London, where  shortages and rationing led some to label it the "austerity games".
In 1952 they returned to Helsinki , where the architect Alvar Aalto was charged with resigning the stadium for the larger post-war crowds. An additional bank of seats  (the brown section below) was added  to accommodate the spectators.
For architectural fans the stadium is well worth visiting and for a small fee you can go to the top of the observation tower below.
I love to combination of straight lines and circular elements.
The views over Helsinki from the top  of the tower are quite spectacular. It remind you that this is a capital built right on the water.
Looking directly down from the tower you see the stadium, below. Here it's easy to see the second bank of seats added for the 1952 games.
Here you can see an early image of the stadium, as you can see it looks very similar today!
After the stadium we visited Alto's home which is now a museum and is very much worth visiting. I'll be covering it in another blogpost. 
Tip: The Guardian has a walking tour of Helsinki's Architecture which is worth checking out.

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