Miss Sofia Singler (2016)
Growing up in and around buildings designed by Alvar Aalto, Finland’s most prominent modernist architect, instilled in me the conviction to devote my life to architectural design and scholarship. My PhD will examine how Aalto’s ecclesiastical oeuvre can enrich our understanding of the relationship between religion and modern architecture, and revise misleadingly uncomplicated assumptions concerning their mutual exclusivity. Modernism's veneration of reason is commonly accepted as evidence of a project of total secularization; its self-proclaimed belief in the rational, precise and machine-produced has led to insufficient appreciation of its ability to endure doubt and uncertainty, key themes in 20th century theology. In addition to a deeply personal connection to Aalto’s architecture, my hometown Jyväskylä provided me with the invaluable opportunity of attending architecture classes at a public art school from age 10 onwards. An understanding of the built environment in its full cultural context is a civic responsibility and privilege that, at best, cultivates a critical approach to architecture in the next generation's thinkers – it is this gift that I aim to give back to others. Thanks to the generosity of the Gates Cambridge Trust, I will dedicate myself both to Aalto scholarship and to children’s architecture education, this time as a teacher rather than a pupil, and in so doing reinforce broader appreciation of the discipline's agency as a societal project.