Alvar Aalto Kymenlaakso Cycling Route

Kymenlaakso is the single region in Finland with the most buildings designed by Alvar Aalto. If Jyväskylä is called the Aalto capital, Kymenlaakso can rightly be called the Aalto region. In total, Kymenlaakso has dozens of buildings designed by Alvar Aalto: detached houses, apartment buildings and blocks of flats, as well as industrial plants.

On the cycle route you can discover Alvar Aalto’s architecture of the 1930s-1950s in Karhula, Sunila, Hamina and Inkeroinen.

Most of the buildings designed by Alvar Aalto were placed freely in the landscape, taking into account the shapes of the terrain. As a result, the connection to nature is a natural continuum for the views of the houses and apartments. Nature, light and their connection to the dwellings were important to Aalto. The overall architectural approach and the typical elements of Aalto’s formal language are repeated in all the Aalto projects in Kymenlaakso.

Aalto succeeded in adapting his buildings to nature and adding both creativity and artistry to their austere simplicity, and even today people are still attracted to Aalto buildings.

A tourist interested in architecture, history and design can easily spend several days exploring the buildings designed by Alvar Aalto, but also stay overnight in apartments designed and decorated in his style.

There are 4 areas on this route with buildings designed by Aalto:

Inkeroinen factory area

The buildings designed by Alvar Aalto for the Inkeroinen Factory Hill were completed between 1937 and 1956. The complex consists of factory buildings, semi-detached houses on the Rantalinja, terraced houses on the Tervalinja, three detached houses, three blocks of flats, a school on the Tehtaanmäki and detached houses on the Karhunkangas.

Hamina Petkele residential area

In Hamina, you can discover the environment of the Summa paper mill designed by Alvar Aalto and the housing designed by him for the paper mill workers and management in the Petkele residential area.

Apartment buildings in Karhula

Alvar Aalto’s design in Karhula is represented by the apartment buildings completed on Karhunkatu between 1945 and 1947, known as the ‘tennis houses’.

Sunila factory and working-class housing area

Alvar Aalto’s handiwork is immediately recognisable from the moment you arrive in the extensive and coherent residential area. The factory, completed in 1938, and the adjacent residential area, originally built between 1937 and 1939, form a whole whose design clearly shows the influence of Alvar Aalto’s 1930s modernism.

For more details and directions see the route in Outdoor Active

By Visit Kotka-Hamina

Aalto sites in Kouvola

Alvar Aalto’s most prominent works in Kouvola are located in Inkeroinen within the area of the Ankkapurha Culture Park. The buildings designed by Aalto in Tehtaanmäki, Inkeroinen date back to 1937 to 1956. These include the industrial buildings of the Anjala Paper Mill and the Tampella Co. Housing Area, including Rantalinja semi-detached houses, Tervalinja terraced houses, three engineering personnel houses and housing blocks for the workers of the mill. While in Kouvola, also make sure to check the Kasarminmäki gateposts, which the young architect designed for the garrison area when he was doing his military service.

The area is complemented by the Tehtaanmäki Primary School finished in 1940 and the Karhunkangas housing area of single-family homes, where most of the residential buildings were completed in 1938. The Tehtaanmäki Primary School is the only elementary school designed by Alvar Aalto that is still in its original use. The town plan designed by Aalto in 1937 covered the entire centre of Inkeroinen, but only the Karhunkangas area and the area adjacent to the mill were ever implemented.

The centre of Kouvola is also an interesting attraction to architecture enthusiasts. The administrative centre of Kouvola representing modernism is a nationally significant built cultural environment catalogued by the National Board of Antiquities. The Town Hall of Kouvola (Bertel Saarnio, Juha Leiviskä, 1964 to 1968, 1969) is an outstanding work of modern architecture classified by the international DOCOMOMO organisation.

The renovated pedestrian street Manski with its shops and cafeterias beckons you to have a cup of coffee and a rest. Those craving for culture make their way to explore the high-standard exhibitions of the Kouvola Art Museum belonging to the Poikilo Museums, and the museum building flooded with light.

Wood, Water & Workshop in Kouvola

Experience the industrial Tehtaanmäki and create your own mindscape. The tour takes you to the Ankkapurha Cultural Park, besides the foams of the River Kymijoki and the Tehtaanmäki residential area. At the Art Centre Antares in the countryside sceneries of Sippola the tour culminates into a workshop and exhibition. On this tour, you can be inspired by the layers of history and create something new of your experiences.

The tour takes you to the industrial community at Tehtaanmäki and presents you the residential area designed by Alvar Aalto. The region is filled with history of the woodworking industry from the 1870s onwards. Tehtaanmäki contains the traditional and the modern – Aalto was hired in the 1930s to design the Anjala Paper Mill and homes for the mill workers. A new type of working-class world was created: verdant and communal area built near the river, providing a setting for housing, school, interests and work.

You will be guided through the residential area, where the houses are still used for their original purpose. The Anjala Paper Mill Aalto designed is also in operation. After the tour we take a boat trip along the River Kymijoki and have a cup of coffee served beside campfire. Accommodation takes place on the grounds of an old manor. In the evening you can relax in sauna by the river.

On the second day, it is your turn! You will be taken to an art workshop at the local Art Center Antares nearby. Interpretate all what you have seen and experienced, in your way and personal style.

Tehtaanmäki residential district and school in Inkeroinen, Kouvola

The buildings in Tehtaanmäki district designed by Aalto date from 1937 to 1956. These buildings include industrial buildings, Rantalinja semi-detached houses, Tervalinja terraced houses, three single-family houses, three housing blocks, Tehtaanmäki Primary School and Karhunkangas single-family houses.

At the end of the 1930s, Tampella Co. established the Anjala Paper Mill in Inkeroinen and built the mill (1937 to 1938) and also houses for the workers, technical management and foremen. Alvar Aalto designed several industrial buildings, various residential houses and modifications and expansions to the existing buildings. The paper mill was modernised in the 1980s, and Stora Enso acquired Tampella’s mill in 1993.

Aalto drew up modification plans for the entrance of the head office of the mill, for the layout plan and for the adjacent house manager’s house. Many of the residential buildings in the industrial area were completed in 1938, and the Tehtaanmäki Primary School was built in 1938-39. The town plan designed by Aalto in 1937 covered the entire centre of Inkeroinen, but only the Karhunkangas area and the area adjacent to the mill were ever implemented.

In their own time, the buildings designed by Aalto were modern and up-to-date. Design had to fulfil its purpose rationally and in an economically viable manner. Aalto appreciated technology in the service of people, as an enabler of better housing conditions. For Alvar Aalto, architecture was not something that could be copied universally from one place to another, but instead, design took place on the terms of the terrain and landscape of the area. The buildings were embedded in the scenery, and the natural environment could stay close by.

The Inkeroinen project is associated with the construction of the Sunila Sulphate Pulp Mill and housing area, which Aalto had designed a little earlier, when Tampella, part of the industrial conglomerate, became convinced of the design capability of Aalto’s architectural office. Sunila was built on virgin ground, while Inkeroinen was adapted to the existing buildings both in terms of housing and industrial production.

In Inkeroinen, the social hierarchy was reflected in the house types and building style. The technical management were built single-family houses, with the Chief Engineering Manager’s house being the biggest. Foremen lived in semi-detached houses and workers in terraced houses and housing blocks. In the spirit of social responsibility and equality of modernism, the goal was to provide all with good living conditions. As an example, the Tervalinja and Rantalinja houses had a supply of hot water.

There were two public saunas in the Tehtaanmäki area, and a public sauna was also built in the Karhunkangas residential area of single-family houses. The goal was to give the apartments a view of the natural environment, and the gardens and outdoor decks were to serve as a continuation of the interior. People were also supposed to be able to live freely and independently.

The River Kymijoki has shaped the history of the entire Kymenlaakso region and given rise to a number of cultural environments related to agriculture, industry, houses and built-up areas. Sawmills and wood-processing plants were established beside hydropower sources and waterways.

Large-scale enterprises in the wood-processing industry promoted the growth of towns, readjusted the business structure and had an impact on the formation of social communities. The landscape characteristic of an industrial area comprised the mill with its smoke stack, and the villas of the mill management and the housing areas of the workers were erected around the mill itself.

The wood-processing industry in Anjala and Inkeroinen originated from Ankkapurha, or the large rapids. The old board mill now serves as the Ankkapurha Industrial Museum, which displays the first continuous board machine in Finland acquired for Inkeroinen in 1897.

The various historical strata of the paper and board mills in Inkeroinen are manifested in the different phases of construction. The oldest buildings in the area are the red-brick mill buildings and traditional wooden residential houses from the late 19th century. The board mill (1887) designed the a​rchitect A.M. Hedbäck is the oldest building, and its interior has been preserved close to original. There are two club buildings: one is a former school built in the mid-1890s and the other built in 1892 was originally in residential use. The Church of Inkeroinen designed by B. Federley was finished in 1910, and the hydroelectric plant designed by S. Frosterus and O. Gripenberg was built in 1921 to 1922.

Ankkapurha past and present – an industrial community by the river Kymi in Kouvola

The tour starts off from the grounds of the Anjala Manor House, from the Makasiinikahvila café, and runs via the manor house milieu across the Ankkapurha rapids over to the Tehtaanmäki area presenting design by Alvar Aalto.

The Anjala Manor was built on the estate of the Wrede family. Finland was then a part of Sweden, and the family received the estate as a donation from King Charles IX of Sweden. Henrik Wrede from Livonia saved the life of the king, dying himself in the battle of Kircholm in 1605.

The history of the manor goes back to the 17th and 18th centuries. The present main building representing neoclassicism dates from the turn of the 18th and 19th centuries.

From the Anjala Manor House, we will move on in time and across the river to the Tehtaanmäki area with buildings designed by Alvar Aalto. The manor is associated with the history of Finland, with the era of manor houses and the first notions of Finnish independence. The Tehtaanmäki area emerged as a result of the period of rapid growth in the Finnish wood-processing industry in the 1870s. The area has expanded and transformed subsequently. In the 1930s the paper industry gained a more prominent position, and the everyday life and housing conditions of the workers gained new kind of attention.

Alvar Aalto was hired in the 1930s to design the Anjala Paper Mill and homes for the mill workers. A new type of working-class world was created: verdant and communal area built near the river, providing a setting for housing, school, interests and work. The houses designed by Aalto and the entire area are still used for their original purpose. These stages of life are the venue for living, playing tennis and working.

The tour participants can get to know buildings designed by Alvar Aalto, and the tour also includes an indoor attraction.

The tour will finish by lunch in the manor house milieu at restaurant Ankkapurhan Helmi.