Alajärvi Town Hall

Among the Aalto sites in Alajärvi, the town hall is the largest and most prominent. The building’s facade is dominated by the large windows of the council chamber and the minimalist white walls. Construction of the Alajärvi town hall began in 1966 and it was completed a year later. The most impressive parts of the terrain-adaptive office building are the lobby and the council chamber. The council chamber is taller than the rest of the building and is adorned with windows of various sizes and shapes that let in the rays of the morning and evening sun.

Alvar Aalto approached his buildings as total works of art, where furniture and lighting were also important elements of the design. In the council chamber of the Alajärvi town hall, there are furnishings, tables, chairs, and lamps designed by Aalto, as well as seating in the foyer.

Alajärvi Parish Hall

Construction of the parish hall began in 1969 and it was completed a year later. The Japanese-influenced parish hall features a lot of open, bright, and unified space. The parish hall’s minimalist white style echoes other buildings in the Aalto Center, such as the town hall and the library. The Aalto Center comprises several buildings by Aalto, all within a short walking distance from each other. Together, the buildings of the Aalto Center form a unique ensemble.

Inside the parish hall, there is a lot of open space. Aalto’s interest in Japanese culture and architecture is evident in the interior aesthetics of the parish hall. The minimalist appearance of both the interior and exterior of the parish hall contrasts with the Alajärvi Church, designed by Carl Ludwig Engel, located behind the building. Although the styles of the buildings are completely different, their color schemes are similar.

Riola church and parish centre

The small mountain village of Riola di Vergato lies on a slope of the Apennines some forty kilometres south of Bologna, along the road to Pistoia. The ecumenically inclined Bishop of Bologna, Cardinal Giacomo Lercaro, asked Aalto in 1965 to design a small church next to the old highway bridge across the river Reno. Aalto’s initial plan from 1966 already showed the church in its final form, but it was later supplemented by a wider plan including a retirement home and a kindergarten. Plans were then further developed in 1969 and again in 1975, continuing until 1980.

As Aalto had done in Seinäjoki, Aalto laid out an enclosed piazza in front of the church, in order to enable a large congregation of thousands to participate in divine services at major religious festivals. Aalto also thought that the church itself, which normally seats a congregation of 200, could be equipped with a gigantic sliding wall in order to divide it up, according to need, into a mini-church – comprising the altar, chancel, and baptistery – and a larger room for non-religious events. The church has an asymmetrical basilica disposition of a slightly wedge-like shape; the unusual roof system consists of a stepped vault whose fragments run longitudinally on one side, while the other side slopes towards the chancel. The surfaces of the fragmented vault are glazed, so that the whole church is bathed in sunlight reflected by them. The vault system is borne by seven gently curved, asymmetrical concrete arches that emerge from the ground on one of the long sides; they recall the shapes of Aalto’s famous wood furniture.

To the left of the chancel is the vestry, which forms part of the vicar’s apartment. The baptistery is on a somewhat lower level to the right of the chancel; it has a lantern visible from the outside and a window overlooking the river below. A campanile, consisting of five parallel vertical concrete planks, rises on the far side of the forecourt, providing an optical lift as a counterpart to the sloped roof of the church. The forecourt is walled off on one of its long sides, sheltered from the ravine of the river. The opposite side is lined by a colonnade and a modest parish building housing youth clubs, meeting rooms, etc.

Experience Alvar Aalto’s architecture in Jyväskylä

During the tour you will experience some of the most iconic built environments designed by Alvar Aalto in a city that has more than earned its epithet, the Alvar Aalto capital of the world.

This tour in Jyväskylä takes you on a journey to a city featuring more works and designs from the different periods of the master architect’s career than any other location in the world. On this tour you will not only be seeing but also living the gems of Modernist architecture: sleep, eat and even swim within architecture.

During the tour you will experience some of the most iconic built environments designed by Alvar Aalto in a city that is called the capital city of Alvar Aalto’s architecture, as there’s the most Alvar Aalto building in the world. He opened his first office and started his family in Jyväskylä, he lived in the city for several years and built his beloved summer residence nearby. The city is also home to the world’s only Alvar Aalto Museum, which is located in a building designed by the architect himself.

During the tour, you will witness the different faces of Aalto’s oeuvre, from the early classicist style through the red-brick period to white monumentalism. Highlights of the tour include a stay in one of Aalto’s most significant works, Säynätsalo Town Hall, swimming in AaltoAlvari swimming hall, the oldest parts of which were designed by Aalto.

Cross Of The Plains and the Parish Centre

Aalto took part in a competition for a large church and parish centre announced by Seinäjoki parish in 1951, sending in an entry marked “Lakeuksien risti” (“Cross of the plains”).

Instead of placing the parish rooms under the church or in a smaller, separate building, as the other entrants had done, Aalto seized upon the big religious events commonly organized in Osthrobotnia in summer. He laid out a large piazza, loping down towards the church and girded by the parish facilities, in front of the church´s main facade. He laid out a large piazza, loping down towards the church and girded by the parish facilities, in front of the church´s main facade. This space-consuming solution obliged Aalto to exceed the prescribed construction limit by some twenty metres, which prevented the jury from awarding him a prize. The jury awarded Aalto´s entry a purchase and recommended it as the basis for implementation.

Aalto was commissioned to develop the plain further. The church was built between 1958 and 1960 and the large parish centre in front between 1964 and 1966. The church was basically build to the competition design, except that Aalto had hoped to use black granite as the facade material; for reasons of cost, however, he had to be content with brick rendered white, only the side chapel being faced with granite.

The main characteristics of the church complex are as follows: on the north side stands the campanile, 65 metres high, in the shape of a stylized cross. Monumentally vertical, visible from afar in the endless plains, it is the town´s symbol. The slightly wedge-shaped, symmetrical church interior is 47 metres long and provides seating for a congregation of 1400. The vestry lies behind the altar, and between it and the campanile is a tiny baptistery and wedding chapel with a stained-glass work by Aalto. Aalto also designed the church textiles and communion vessels.

The parish centre´s main divergence from the competition entry is the open staircase on an axis from the main facade of the church to the town hall square (built up later). This staircase separates the two wings of the building, which contain a large assembly hall, catering facilities for the congregation, a room for confirmation classes, a clubroom, offices, and several apartments for employees.

Wolfsburg church (Heilig-Geist-Kirche) and the parish centre

The complex consists of the Heilig-Geist-Kirche (Church of the Holy Ghost), a bell tower, a parish building, a vicarage, and a kindergarten. The buildings form a tightly-knit group, that turns its back on the surrounding area, and is articulated around an inner courtyard area. Aalto started working on the project in January 1960, drawing from the main principles of his earlier project for the Danish international church competition of 1958.

Wolfsburg church was opened for the public in 1962. The most conspicuous feature of the church is the vault, which soars from the ground behind the altar to form the roof. In the wedge-shaped interior, the vault is marked by five emphatic strips of wooden slats extending fan-like to cover the whole ceiling. The primary reason for this roof structure is in the acoustics, but it is also meant to symbolise a hand that protects churchgoers.

The church also has unusual-shaped side windows reaching up to the ceiling. These windows distribute morning and afternoon sunlight in such a way that it does not directly reach the pews. To the right of the altar there is also a pentagonal baptistery capped by a lantern that appears from the outside as a copper-clad tower. The 32-meter-high bell tower of the church consists of two parallel vertical concrete planks with four shelves between them, each supporting one bell.

The parish centre is a fan-shaped single-storey building with two rooms for confirmation classes, a large assembly hall, a meeting room, a club room, and a kitchen, all grouped around a common atrium. The vicarage, a long, rectangular building one and a half storeys high, contains offices and four apartments for the vicar, the chaplain, the precentor, and the parish nurse.

Detmerode Church (Stephanuskirche) and parish centre

Detmerode is a residential community linked to the industrial city of Wolfsburg, a town where several Aalto buildings had found place: a cultural centre whose design started in 1958, and the Church of the Holy Ghost in 1960. For this small suburb, Aalto was commissioned a plan for a church in 1963, filling the gap between a much-frequented shopping centre and a park. The church, also intended to be used for secular events such as concerts, is sheltered behind a portico that connects it to the shopping centre´s plaza. It is equipped with 250 seats, which can be extended to 600 when needed.

Built in the shape of a truncated wedge, the church has a slightly pitched lean-to roof. The ceiling features nineteen circular acoustic reflectors 250 centimetres in diameter, that give the impression of floating in the air. Under the chancel is a grotto-like crypt reserved exclusively for more intimate church ceremonies, such as baptisms and weddings. To the right of the glazed entrance facade rises an unusual bell tower consisting of twelve concrete columns of equal height; amongst them, the bells are nested, hung in a stepped formation.

The L-shaped parish building west of the church is also connected to the plaza portico. The hexagonal parish hall and confirmation class premises are situated directly above the parish centre´s spacious entrance hall. The complex also includes facilities for youth clubs, a vicar´s office, and housing for the vicar and chaplain. The church centre was built between 1965 and 1968.

Muurame church

Alvar Aalto designed several church plans in 1920’s and Muurame church is the only one that was realised. Muurame church is considered to be a interphase in Aalto’s career. After Muurame church, Aalto gradually moved on from classism to functionalism.

The village of Muurame lies a few miles south of Jyväskylä, the town where Aalto opened his first architectural practice in 1923. It was only natural for the parish council to commission its new church from the closest qualified architect. Alvar Aalto had made his first trip to Italy in 1924, and his travel impressions are much in evidence in the church of Muurame.

Muurame church represents Nordic Classicism. Muurame church is located on a ridge and it is an important part of the cultural heritage in the area. The church is a single-aisle basilica with a tall campanile on one side of the rounded chancel. The interior has a barrel vault over a system of joists, the parish hall opens as a side chapel to the right of the chancel. A staircase leads down from this room to an exit with a loggia, which in Aalto´s original plan is surrounded by a rose garden.

Aino and Alvar Aalto designed the furnishings for the church together. The furnishings, designed fairly late in the project, took on elements of Aalto´s conversion to Modernism, and Aalto used Poul Henningsen lamps for interior lighting.

The interior of the Muurame church has undergone several changes over the years. Last time the interiors and exteriors of the Muurame church were renovated in 2016. The aim of the renovation was to restore the church to its original appearance. During the renovation, also Poul Hennigsen’s light fixtures were returned to the church. The latest renovation is considered to be successful.

William Lönnberg was commissioned to paint the altarpiece in 1929.

Church of the Three Crosses (Vuoksenniska Church)

The Church of the Three Crosses in Vuoksenniska is one of Imatra’s parish churches. After the Second World War, Alvar Aalto was commissioned to create a master plan for Imatra, which merged three of the rural municipality’s widely separated old villages: Imatrankoski, Vuoksenniska and Tainionkoski. The industrial community also required church amenities, and thus Aalto was commissioned in 1955 to design a new church. Aalto designed the church for the Vuoksenniska industrial community so as to combine sacral and social activities. The church was completed in 1958 on the high, pine-forested ridge that divides Lake Saimaa from Lake Immala.

Alvar Aalto, together with his office collaborators, designed the church interior, complete with its lamps, church collection baskets and candle holders, in the spirit of a total work of art, or “Gesamtkunstwerk”. The basic design of the sculptural white church consists of a series of consecutive sections. The main church space can be subdivided into three spaces using movable partition walls; the most sacred of which is the altar end and its pews, and the organ and choir balcony. Opposite this, at the southern end of the building, one could play volleyball or badminton without disturbing the other activities, the architectural complex or the sacral nature of the church. For the everyday parish activities, a kitchen and meeting room were built in the basement.

The church complex also comprises a 34-metre high sculptural concrete campanile, as well as a vicarage that encloses the southern courtyard.

Aalto worked on the design of sacral buildings throughout his career, but several of his church designs never went beyond competition proposals. Of his realised churches, the Church of the Three Crosses completed in 1958 in Vuoksenniska is unique. The small sculptural parish church, rising up amidst pine heath, embodies the free and imaginative aspect of Aalto’s architecture. The church can be said to be Aalto’s response to the development of modern church architecture in central Europe.

The complex exterior architecture of Vuoksenniska Church conceals the tracks of the heavy sliding walls that affect the design of the building at all levels. According to Aalto:

“The author has simultaneously sought two solutions to the problems, one of which lies almost exclusively within the psychological realm (the acoustic tone of the sermon) and the other purely within the technical realm (the effective separation of the church spaces from each other).” (Arkkitehti 12/1959)

When presenting his design for the Vuoksenniska Church in the journal Arkkitehti, Aalto criticized contemporary church design:

“The ecclesiastical activities of the industrial community must, of course, be resolved with an emphasis on the church’s social activities. Though in the world there exist several different combinations of such church activities, it is unfortunate, however, that many institutions of a social nature have often removed from church buildings their character as a public building. Very often these are kinds of intermediate forms between settlement-movement hostels, youth and parish clubs, parish halls and the actual modest church space connected to these.” (Arkkitehti, 12/1959)

Early and later works of architect Alvar Aalto

Travel in the sceneries from the various phases in the life of Alvar Aalto, from Seinäjoki via Kuortane and Alajärvi to Jyväskylä in the lake district of Finland. See the master’s birthplace and family grave, some of his most famous competition works as well as his early and later works.

Alvar Aalto designed a world-famous centre of administrative and cultural buildings in Seinäjoki. The landmark of the Aalto centre, the Cross of the Plains Church, soars to a height of approx. 65 metres. The renovated Aalto Library exhibits the world’s biggest private collection of Aalto glassware.

The architect was born in Kuortane and he used to spend his summers in Alajärvi, which is the home for the first buildings designed by the young architect student and for the last creation of Aalto’s office. In Alajärvi, the tour participants can also visit the recently renovated Villa Väinölä, the house that Alvar Aalto designed for his brother. The countryside provided Alvar Aalto with a setting for relaxation during his hectic creative period.

The Jyväskylä region contains more buildings designed by the master architect than any other region in the entire world. Among as many as 28 attractions, you can choose for example the Alvar Aalto Museum, Muurame Church and Säynätsalo Town Hall, which is considered Aalto’s most prominent work in the red brick era. Alvar Aalto also went to school, started a family and launched his prestigious career in Jyväskylä.

Church of the Cross

On the old church site of Kolkanmäki rises the architecturally impressive tower of the Church of the Cross, built 1978. This vital element of the Lahti cityscape is a masterwork of Alvar Aalto, elegantly mirroring the city hall – located on the southern end of an axis crossing the market square – designed by Eliel Saarinen, another master architect.

As the primary church of Lahti, the Church of the Cross is a well-known place of worship, clerical procedures and spiritual activities. Master organists from around the world have played the church’s 53-stop pipe organ, constructed at Veikko Virtanen’s workshop. The church serves as important concert venue and studio due to its great acoustic design.


Lahti’s Kolkkamäki Hill was occupied from 1890 to 1977 by a classical Finnish wooden church, until it was torn down by the Evangelical-Lutheran congregations of Lahti to make way for a new church. Alvar Aalto was invited to design a new central church for Keski-Lahti.

The decision to demolish the old church and replace it with a new one sparked a religious controversy, which was unique in the history of Finnish churches due to its scale and ferocity. Complaints and statements to various authorities regarding Aalto’s plans lasted nearly seven years.

When Alvar Aalto started to plan the church, he visited the future church site. The preservation of trees, the closeness to nature, and the opening of the church into nature were important to Aalto. This worked well with Aalto’s intent to have the Church of the Cross act as a Getsemane – a place of prayer and silence in the middle of the busy, modern Lahti. The church’s triangular layout was the first of its kind in Finland.

The church’s southern wall boasts a cross-shaped cluster of 52 windows. The simple cross on the altar wall was fashioned from a support beam of the old church’s belfry. The concrete belfry of the Church of the Cross rises 40 metres up directly from the structure. It holds the three bells of the previous church, which remain in use to this day.