A college trip to Finland still influences Ascent’s Travis Smith every day in his design work.
As architects, every city and country we visit provides new insight into the ways others approach architecture and building design. At Ascent Architecture & Interiors, we have several team members whose curiosities have taken them to places all over the world, and we’re excited to have their experiences guide them on our projects.
While studying architecture at Montana State University, in Bozeman, Ascent Design Professional Travis Smith, Assoc. AIA, went to Europe, traveling through several countries. However, it was a week in Helsinki, Finland, and its surrounding areas, that inspired Smith the most. He explored cities such as Jyväskylä, Säynätsalo, Muuratsalo, and Otaniemi and immersed himself in everything Finland offered.
But it was the architecture that really inspired him, as he noticed the differences and similarities to what he was studying back home. “The biggest difference I think was the ornamental aesthetics of all the buildings,” Travis says. “Every building was crafted very specifically to create a unique sense of style with an intricate attention to detail.”
While he maintains that Finland “is full of amazing architecture,” Travis says that one building really struck him and brought to life a lesson he’d learned in school. It was the Säynätsalo Town Hall, designed by Scandinavian modernist architect Alvar Aalto (1898-1976). As it turns out, Travis had pulled that building name out of a hat for a project during his first year of architecture school, and his professor tasked him with drawing inspiration from the historic building and its architecture to create a conceptual design piece. After that project, Travis says he was “enamored by Aalto and his designs and by the Town Hall in particular.”
Seeing the building in person – not just studying the photos as he’d done in school – and getting to explore it inside and out had a profound impact on Travis. “It felt as if my journey was complete,” he says.
One of the aspects of Aalto’s design that affected Travis the most was the juxtaposition of the design’s simplicity with the complex nature of the building. “Aalto designed every single square inch of his buildings with incredible detail,” says Travis.
“The detail and lighting inside the town hall blew me away. He designed the door handles, the light fixtures, the furniture, even the mayor’s gavel inside that building. That attention to detail and the type of craftsmanship that the designer can bring to a project really stuck with me.”
In addition to visiting the town hall, Travis also went to Aalto’s summer home in Muuratsalo, which the designer used as his experimental building- material canvas.
As a result, the building was made up of a random collection of materials, textures, and patterns, which helped Aalto create concepts for future building designs. To complete his journey of the designer, Travis went to Aalto’s personal design studio at his home in Helsinki, as well as Aalto University, in Otaniemi, where Aalto master planned and designed the campus buildings.
Travis’ experiences in Finland remain with him today in his work at Ascent Architecture & Interiors. He draws inspiration from Finland in the detailing and design he does.
Travis finds creative outlets at work, and in his hobby of woodworking, where he can “figure out all the details and think things through and figure out how each piece of the design puzzle fits in and affects the other pieces of the puzzle.”
It’s also the level of detail and experience you can expect when you entrust Travis and the rest of the Ascent Architecture & Interiors team with your design project. As an architecture firm, it’s these kinds of experiences that bring character and creativity to every project we do.