Seaside museums – Architecture, art and home museums by the sea!

A self-guided museum tour around the Laajalahti bay, outside the usual tourist routes, reveals seven unique museum sites that can be experienced together or separately. In addition to the scenic surroundings, the sites are united under interesting architecture and the fact that they have originally been homes and / or workspaces. The Didrichsen Art Museum, Villa Gyllenberg and Gallen-Kallela museums also feature significant art collections and changing exhibitions.

In Alvar Aalto’s home and office building in Munkkiniemi you can take part in guided tours all year round. Aficionados of architecture and design will get an insight into the interesting life of the Aalto family and everyday life of architects’ office. During the visit, you can also explore the beautiful gardens surrounding the buildings.

On a guided tour in Tamminiemi you will learn about the house’s most famous and longest-lived inhabitant: president Urho Kekkonen (1900–1986), and discover the original interiors and design from the 1970s. Tamminiemi’s legendary tar-smelling, seaside sauna can also be visited during the summer season.

The nearby Seurasaari open-air museum comes alive in the summer. The beautiful and fascinating traditional Finnish buildings, immersed into the magnificent natural setting of the island, constitute a favourite destination for both Helsinki locals and travellers around.

There are as many as two high-quality art museums on the small Kuusisaari island. The Didrichsen Art Museum has 2-3 changing exhibitions each year. The neighbouring Villa Gyllenberg features museum’s permanent collection which includes, amongst other masterpieces, 38 works by Helene Schjerfbeck. In addition, the museum also organises changing exhibitions. On Saturdays during the summer, Kuusisaari can be reached also by water bus running between Market Square in the city centre and Kuusisaari.

The northern shore of Laajalahti bay also offers exciting museum experiences, as well as a pleasant museum café where visitors can spend a relaxing moment. The Gallen-Kallela Museum, located in a castle-like villa designed by artist Akseli Gallen-Kallela, presents the art and life of Gallen-Kallela and his contemporaries with changing exhibitions, as well as exhibitions of contemporary art. From April you can also cycle to the museum on a city bike.

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.

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.

Wolfsburg Cultural Center

Wolfsburg Cultural Centre was designed and constructed for a small German city built around automotive industry. In choosing Alvar Aalto as the designer, the young city of Wolfsburg wanted to acquire a higher profile.

The building was designed to house the City Library, the Adult education centre and the Youth club. These three different functions were skillfully combined under the same roof, so that each one of them found their own unique space behind the sculptural façade. Nowadays, the City Library is the only original function of the cultural center still in operation. In addition to the library, today the building houses various business facilities, such as a restaurant called Aalto.

The unique shape of the Wolfsburg Cultural Centre is one of its distinct features. The design of the main façade of the building is very geometric. The building appears to form itself from a series of hexagonal volumes that have been pushed together.

In designing the Wolfsburg Cultural Center, Aalto was presented with the possibility of realizing a plan as a “total work of art”, for a client allowing freedom from constraints of budget and schedule. The building also features personalised solutions, such as the atrium courtyard with a sliding roof and fireplace, opening onto the roof terrace of the building. There are also various skylights in the building that bring natural daylight in.

The façade of the building is Carrara marble, while the interiors are mainly granite and wood. Many details of the building, such as door handles and fixed lighting fixtures, as well as furniture, were also designed by Aalto. Nowadays, many of Aalto’s designs can still be seen inside the building.

Guided walking tour of the Aalto Centre in Seinäjoki

As an architectural whole, the Administrative and Cultural Centre in Seinäjoki is unique on a global scale.

The Seinäjoki Aalto Centre was designed by world famous architect Alvar Aalto. As an architectural whole, the Administrative and Cultural Centre in Seinäjoki is unique on a global scale. The six buildings are gathered right in the middle of Seinäjoki city centre, within walking distance from Seinäjoki railway station.

A guided walking tour led by a local guide from Seinäjoki will include the The Cross Of The Plains Church, Seinäjoki City Hall, Seinäjoki City Theatre, Aalto Library and the world’s largest collection of Aalto glassware. You will also see the architecturally spectacular Apila Library, designed by JKMM Architects.

Vyborg Library

The Alvar Aalto Library in Vyborg, completed in 1935, was one of the buildings that brought Aalto worldwide fame. The history of the competition and design for Vyborg Library is crucially linked with Alvar Aalto’s changeover from classicism to functionalism. The ideas developed for the Viipuri Library competition remained central to the work of Aalto’s office throughout its existence.

Amongst Alvar Aalto’s buildings, the Vyborg Library has had an unusually varied history. Aalto won the competition for the Library in 1927 with a completely Classical proposal, but because of the Great Depression, the construction of the Library was postponed several times. The planned site for the library building also changed from the original plans and also funding initially allocated to the Library was used, instead, to erect a statue of an elk in front of the site where the Library would have later been. The Library was eventually completed in 1935, a modern and progressive building with a formal language developed from Aaltos previous projects: the Turun Sanomat building and Paimio Sanatorium.

The building has two main elements: firstly the library itself, with its various departments, and secondly the socially active part of the library, the clubrooms. The Vyborg Library was also one of the first libraries in Finland at that time, that offered possibilities for other social activities in addition to the library itself. A lot of attention was also focused on the transformability of the spaces inside the building, where for example curtains were used as a room divider. The building consists of three separate libraries: the main hall, the children’s library and the newspaper hall. The main entrance to the building is placed in the library’s northern facade, while the children’s library and the newspaper reading room are located on the eastern and southern facades of the building. In addition to the distinct design language of the building, functionalist features can also be recognized in its light and unostentatious façade, flat roof, skylights and in long rows of windows running the length of the building.

In the Second World War, Finland lost Vyborg to the Soviet Union. The Vyborg library survived the war period, but it remained unused for a decade before some renovations were carried out under the Soviet authority. After the Soviet repairs, the Library functioned again as the Municipal Central Library as originally intended, and was the soul of cultural life in Vyborg.

However, eventually over time the Library fell gradually into disrepair. Eventually, at the start of the 1990s, the city of Vyborg asked Aalto’s architects office for help with planning the repair work. With support from the Finnish Ministry of the Environment, architect Elissa Aalto set up a restoration-working group, which developed into the current restoration association. The goal of this restoration project that spanned national borders was to re-instate the building’s original architectonic value. The renovation, which initially progressed slowly for financial reasons, was given a boost in December 2010 by funds from the Russian government.

The restored Library was opened to the public in November 2013; marking an end to twenty years of work. The restoration work of the library has since received awards for the exceptionally high-quality result and the laudable international cooperation. Nowadays the library is considered to be an important public building for the locals as well as a popular destination for travellers.

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.

Aalto Library in Seinäjoki

The Seinäjoki Library was designed as a part of the Aalto Centre in Seinäjoki and the building completed in 1965. Originally the public and other working spaces were mainly located on the ground floor of the building whereas storage and exhibition spaces were located downstairs. Aalto also designed the main part of the built in fixtures, furniture and light fixtures as a part of the entity of the building.

Aalto’s library functioned as the main library of the city until 2012. In 2012 the new main library Apila was completed and Aalto’s library was connected to it with a under ground passage. Aalto’s library was renovated to its original state during 2012-2015. The renovation was considered to be a great success and an example to other renovation projects. Also the furniture and the lighting for the reading room were restored during the renovation and were then installed in their original locations. Nowadays the regional collections, genealogy and a separate children’s literature department operate in the library. Arts, architecture, history and ethnology literature is also placed in Aalto’s library.

Aalto’s Seinäjoki library also has an important collection of design glass by Aino and Alvar Aalto on display in the library’s original magazine reading room. The collection is owned by the city of Seinäjoki.

Aalto’s Seinäjoki library has a very simplified façade and the strips of windows that are covered with slats dominate it. It is considered to represent a free-form hall library type. A lot of attention was given to the lighting of the building and especially in capitalizing the natural daylight. The lending desk is located right in the middle of the building. Behind it Aalto designed a lowered reading space which is a typical feature in Aalto’s libraries. The layout of the building combines forms of a rectangle and a fan, which also plays an important role in the surveillance of the building.

Jyväskylä Workers’ Club

Jyväskylä Workers’ club building was the first notable public building that Alvar Aalto got to design after his graduation with Aino Aalto. Aalto was given the design commission for the new building in the city centre by the Jyväskylä Workers’ Association in 1924. The plans for the building were made in 1924 and it erected the following year. Aino and Alvar Aalto also designed the furniture, light fixtures, and fittings specially for this building. 

This building also marked Aalto’s breakthrough and it is one of the principal works of Alvar Aalto’s Classical period. Workers’ club is also one of the most historically important building of its time. It was protected by law in the city plan already at the beginning of the 1970’s. The provincial government of Central Finland protected the building in 1978 and finally the Finnish Government protected the building in 1986.

The lower level of the building is basically a glazed colonnade containing a restaurant, two café rooms, and the entrance hall to the theatre. A monumental staircase leads up to the upper floor. The largely windowless upper floor contained an auditorium used for political assemblies and as a theatre with stage, parterre, balconies, and foyer. These facilities were used by the workers’ theatre and later by the city theatre until the new city theatre completed in 1982. Nowadays the building is used as a venue place for meetings and special occasions. 

The foundation of the Jyväskylä Workers’ club were laid on 22nd of September in 1924. Into the stone foundation they hid old issues of their Työnvoima -magazine and the workers club 35-Year History, pictures and money.

When the Workers’ club completed it had a distinctively different character in the street scene of Jyväskylä. The building represents typical 1920s Nordic Classicism and it has features from Renaissance architecture. Such as the Palladian windows, the medallions details and the balustrades which dominate the facade. Also the restaurant space inside the building has a round atrium shape. The earliest sketches also show a large, colonnaded forecourt but it was not built.

Workers’ club has been refurbished and some changes have been made over the years. For example the restaurant spaces have later been fully remodelled. More restoration and repair work were done in the 1980’s and some parts of the building were brought back closer to the historically accurate condition. The latest renovation was in 2008 when the theatre space Aalto-sali was renovated.

Seinäjoki Defence Corps building

The Defence Corps building was commissioned by the Southern Ostrobothnia Defence Corps, which used the three-storey building with mixed functions as its headquarters. The main building was originally used as offices for the Civil Guard of South Ostrobothnia and the Lotta Svärd Association. The top tier of the building was in residential use. 

The semi-subterranean ground floor, which contains a circular assembly hall, foyer and cloakroom, is built of stone; the office level and the residential storey (at the top with its own access stairs) are of wood. Together with the main building, a separate outbuilding was designed and erected on the other side of the courtyard. The ground floor of this two-storey building of rendered brick contains a garage, guardhouse, arms depot, sauna, and laundry; there are four small apartments in the upper storey. An unusual stair arrangement on both sides of the arched entrance provides separate access to most of the various facilities. One of the short sides of the courtyard is enclosed by a low wooden storehouse, designed some years later. The courtyard itself was intended as a drill and parade ground.

After the Second World War the building was re purposed for other uses. Since then many tenants have been operating in the building, including The Federation of Finnish youth association, a school and a travel agency. Nowadays the building is managed by the Provincial Museum of Southern Ostrobothnia. Currently it houses the Civil Guard and Lotta Svärd Museum. The main building holds museum exhibition and meeting spaces, an info booth and museum shop. The outbuilding has more exhibition spaces and a administration space for the museum.

The Defence Corps building has been preserved in its original condition and it’s buildings and their yard have also been protected under the law regarding building protection since 2002. 

The building represents refined neoclassicism and functionalist features as well as Ostrobothnian construction heritage. The building’s unusual stair hall, facade pilasters, and assembly hall painted in Pompeiian style make it one of the chief works of Alvar Aalto’s Neo-Classical period. Some part of the decorations in the buildings, including furniture, lamps and ornament details were also designed by Aalto. 

Aalto originally designed a loggia-like staircase for the end entrance, but it was not built.

The Suojeluskuntalainen statue, work by artist Pentti Papinaho is located in the yard of The Defence Corps building.

Iittala Glass Factory and Design Museum Iittala

Finnish design is known for glass. Iittala is home to a Finnish glass center, the only glass factory in operation in Finland. Iittala’s story began in 1881, when a glass factory was founded in the village. Today, Iittala’s design story is known worldwide.

The names of Alvar and Aino Aalto have been connected to Iittala since the beginning. Alvar Aalto wanted to ‘free’ glass from geometric form and create an impression of organic, living forms. Aino and Alvar Aalto believed objects should be essential, beautiful, useful and democratically available to all. Today, the legendary Aalto vase is a symbol of Finnish design and one of the world’s most famous glass objects. Each vase is mouthblown at the Iittala Glass Factory.

The Iittala Glass Factory offers a unique opportunity to see how skilled glassblowers create Aalto vases, art objects and common utility articles from molten glass. The demanding work of the glassblowers can be followed either independently at a viewing balcony or with a pre-booked tour guide.

In Design Museum Iittala, located in a cultural-historical area of the Iittala glass factory, the visitor has an opportunity to explore the history of the factory. The largest of the exhibitions is the basic exhibition that presents the glass history of Iittala, and displays internationally acclaimed art glass and prominent serial design products from the late 19th to the 21st century. The exhibition focuses on the Aalto vase and on the golden age, the 1905s, of Finnish design.

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.