Catherine Slessor / Architecture Review, Dec 1999
A dramatic architectural installation designed to draw attention to the plight of the Finnish countryside.
Our most unusual finalist was the wonderful architectural installation in Finland by Marco Casagrande and Sami Rintala. It is (or was) both a celebration of the traditional Finnish landscape and farming practices and a protest against the endless growth of the low density suburbs which now surround every Finnish settlement.
Modern agricultural methods have ensured the demise of many of the traditional wooden buildings seen on the edges of the meadow clearings of the forest all over the country’s flat landscape. In these grey little barns, hay was stored, and animals chosen to live through winter were gathered in from the ferocious cold — their less fortunate herd-mates being slaughtered since there was not enough fodder to keep them. Now that new industrialized farm structures and new agricultural techniques have made the old buildings redundant they are destroyed or simply allowed to fall down.
Three of these abandoned barns ‘were driven,’ the architects explained, ‘to the point where they have had to break their primeval union with the soil. Desolate, they have risen on their shanks and are swaying toward the cities of the south.’
Their structures were put together again and reinforced internally. Then they were raised 10m high each on four slender legs of unpeeled pine trunks braced with steel wire — and they began to march towards the cities of the south. The humble had suddenly been given majesty, even a degree of the sublime.
They were marching to their deaths. In early October, cords of dry wood were assembled round their legs, and all was set on fire — just at the time when the beasts they housed would have been slaughtered too.
The whole was in many ways a contemporary interpretation of monument, poetic, moving, its only remaining presence on film and video. It is to be hoped that the heroic march of the three on the nation’s memories and its attitude to its agricultural past. All jury members agreed that the idea was extremely powerful, and that it must be commended.
Casagrande & Rintala, 1999
Site: Savonlinna, Finland