Viipuri library, Alvar Aalto


January 2015



Recently, the renovation of Alvar Aalto's libraryin Viipuri (now Vyborg, Russia) has been completed. When I visited the building in 1998, it was in serious state of decay. Below, my impressions of that encounter in words and photos.

City after war, after silence or cold
Nothing remains but all reminds
Of what was, still is present, you?
But who were you, who are you
Did we ever meet? Leftovers
give direction, but whereto?

We are present in a past
Stones remain, the streets,
But gray, abandoned, in decay,
We walk trough piles of pieces
Of another time, another world
Of stone and snow melting away

A girl walks to the library,
A bag over her shoulder
She enters the slender doors
in glass and steel. Her boots
Leave meltwater on the floor
She climbs the stair towards
the reading room, her hand
on the wooden rail, following
its bends. She enters.

Three buckets in corners,
the books still on shelves.
The ceiling leaks water
and abundant light
falls on the reading tables
and the trodden floor

The space, though damp and cold,
embraces, leads her eyes, her steps
to the next flight of stairs
and invites her to sit down
and read, alone.



photo's kh 1998