Alvar Aalto, one of the 20th century’s most celebrated architects, was inspired by his native Finland’s environment, yet his work has a vast universal appeal. Of Aalto’s 500 works, 400 are located in Finland. Here is a guide to Aalto’s top buildings in Finland.
Villa Aalto is located in the posh and leafy seaside area of Munkkiniemi. But when Aalto built his home here in 1935, the neighbourhood was not yet developed. Villa Aalto is part of the Alvar Aalto Museum, which operates in Helsinki and Jyväskylä. Villa Aalto represents the functionalism of Aalto’s early style with some unique features for its time, such as a walk-in closet in the bedroom!
Studio Aalto in Helsinki is located only 450 metres from Villa Aalto and dates from 1955 and 1956. Aalto designed the studio as a separate atelier and architect bureau. The studio is considered one of Aalto’s masterpieces from the 1950s. Here, in an amphitheatre-like courtyard surrounded by whitewashed walls of his building, Aalto used to have client meetings and presentations. Aalto is reported to say that “architectural art cannot be created in an office-like environment.”
Located in the city centre district of Töölö, you cannot miss the white and majestic Finlandia Hall rising on Töölönlahti Bay. The marble-clad Finlandia Hall was finished in 1971 and reflects Aalto’s interest in Monumentalism. Aalto’s signature can be seen also in the small details, such as the lights and door handles. Finlandia Hall functions as a music venue and guided tours are organised to get a more in-depth feel of Alvar Aalto’s architectural genius.
Jyväskylä is called “The Athens of Finland” and this is what Aalto had in mind when he designed several buildings for the University of Jyväskylä campus area. Aalto designed eight buildings, including the University’s Main Building, Swimming Pool (called Aalto-Alvari) and Lozzi restaurant building. Aalto designed the layout of the campus to reflect the principles of Greek acropolis layouts. Red brick is the dominant feature, and by walking around the campus area you will get a pretty good feel of Aalto’s early 1950s style.
The 1960s was the “white period” for Alvar Aalto, which is exemplified in the Museum of Central Finland with its white exterior and few windows. The museum was completed in 1961 and marks a distinctive separation from Aalto’s red-brick buildings in the University of Jyväskylä campus. The museum will reopen in 2019 after renovation.
Close to the Jyväskylä University campus stands Alvar Aalto museum, dedicated not only to Aalto’s architecture but to his designs and personal life. Aalto spent much of his youth in Jyväskylä and he has also designed the Alvar Aalto Museum, opened in 1973. In Alvar Aalto Museum, the visitor gets a solid grasp of the genius’ life work. Apart from Aalto’s work in architecture, Alvar Aalto Museum showcases Aalto’s work in glass and furniture design. There is also a lovely café and shop downstairs.
Located about 20 kilometres outside the city centre of Jyväskylä, Muuratsalo Experimental House was Aalto’s summer home on the island of Muuratsalo. The L-shaped main building dates from 1952 and the guest room wing from 1953. The summer house functioned also as a laboratory where Aalto experimented with new techniques and sought inspiration from nature. Here, Aalto also experimented with solar heating – way ahead of his time!
Villa Mairea in Pori was built in 1939 to Maire and Harry Gullichsen, who were big promoters of art. Free rein was given to Aalto and his wife Aino Aalto, who is responsible for the interior design. The fabulously stylish result with a collection of 20th-century designer masterpieces can now be admired in Villa Mairea, which oozes Finnish style inside and out. The house is open to the public through advance booking.