Alvar Aalto's Viipuri Library was constructed between 1927-1935, after he entered and won an architectural competition to design a municipal library. The finished structure put him on the map as one of the most important modernists of his time, and led to the Museum of Modern Art featuring the designs of Aalto in the museum’s first exhibition on the work of an international style architect in 1938. But after WWII, when Viipuri, Finland became Vyborg, Russia under the Soviet Union's regime, the iconic structure was threatened by abandonment, neglect, and "inappropriate renovations," according to the World Monuments Fund (WMF).
The Finnish Committee for the Restoration of Viipuri Library was founded in 1992 after the fall of the USSR, committed to the enormous project of repairing and preserving the heroic achievement of one history's most influential modern architects.The campaign took two decades and the library appeared twice on the World Monuments Watch list for modern buildings at risk, in 2000 and 2002.
"The restoration organised 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," said Barry Bergdoll, chairman of the Modernism Prize jury and curator of architecture and design at New York's Museum of Modern Art. "With its distinctive sky-lighted roof, undulating wood-slatted lecture hall ceiling, and glass facade-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."
The spirit of the committee echoed the philosophy of the architect himself: "The project reflects the highest standards of scholarship, authenticity, architecture, materials conservation, functionality, social impact, stewardship, and technical imagination," said a statement from the WFM.
The winners will receive $10,000 and a limited edition Mies van der Rohe Barcelona Chair from Knoll in a ceremony at MoMA on December 1st. WMF president Bonnie Burnham and Andrew B Cogan, CEO of Knoll, who sponsors the prize, will be the presenters. You can read the official press release for the award here.
The news has already spread widely around yhe world:
Canadian Architect: http://www.canadianarchitect.com/news/2014-world-monuments-fund-knoll-modernism-prize-awarded-to-the-finnish-committee-for-the-restoration/1003333914/?&er=NA
The Editor At Large: http://www.editoratlarge.com/articles/4858/forgotten-alvar-aalto-library-wins-prize-for-restoration