Restoration of Alvar Aalto’s Viipuri Library Wins World Monuments Fund Modernism Prize

RUS-Viipuri-glass-facadeThe 21-year-long project to restore Alvar Aalto‘s Viipuri Library in Vyborg, Russia (né Viipuri, Finland, before Stalin and co. took a fancy to it) has clinched the 2014 World Monuments Fund/Knoll Modernism Prize, awarded biennially to an innovative architectural or design solution that has preserved or enhanced a modern landmark. The award will be made to the Finnish Committee for the Restoration of Viipuri Library with Vyborg’s Central City Alvar Aalto Library. Previous winners of the prize—$10,000 and a limited-edition Barcelona chair created by Knoll especially for the occasion—include an architectural consortium that restored typhoon-ravaged Hizuchi Elementary School on Japan’s Shikoku Island and the team effort of Bierman Henket Architecten and Wessel de Jonge Architects to restore the Zonnestraal Sanatorium in the Dutch town of Hilversum.

The Aalto-designed library was completed in 1935. “An icon of twentieth-century architecture—with its distinctive sky-lighted roof, undulating wood-slatted lecture hall ceiling, and glass façade-enclosed staircase—the library at Viipuri is one of Aalto’s most important buildings from the years in which he was adventurously exploring a new modernist vocabulary; indeed, photographs of the building soon made him known around the world,” said jury chairman and MoMA veteran Barry Bergdoll, professor of Art History and Archaeology at Columbia University, in a statement issued today by the WMF. “The restoration organized and executed an impressive international campaign that has ensured the survival and revival of Aalto’s masterpiece by restoring it to its original function as a vibrant municipal library.” The prize will be presented at New York’s Museum of Modern Art on December 1 followed by a free public lecture.