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.

History

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.

Finlandia Hall

Finlandia Hall was completed in Helsinki’s city centre in 1971 and the extra wing in 1975. The building was intended for congresses and concerts.

The location of Finlandia Hall is part of the plan for Helsinki’s city centre that Aalto made in the 1960s. The building was intended to be one of a cluster of cultural building around Töölö Bay. In the unrealised plan the main traffic artery into Helsinki was on the opposite side of the Bay. The building’s main façade faces in that direction.

Aalto wanted the interior and exterior marble facings to create a link with the culture of the Mediterranean countries. The details of the furnishings, including the furniture and light fittings, were carefully designed to create an integrated whole.

In 1962 the Helsinki city authorities commissioned Aalto to design a concert and congress building as the first part of his great centre plan. The Finlandia Hall was completed nine years later. Even the earliest plans show the main characteristics of the final solution. One of the most conspicuous alterations involved the chamber music room, originally intended to soar like the main auditorium above the main building mass.

The Finlandia Hall was adapted strictly to Aalto’s centre plan, with its main (eastern) facade turned towards the projected Terrace Square and the car entrance on the bottom level, intended to continue in the form of a tunnel to other cultural buildings along the shore of Töölö Bay. At this level each section’s own access stair can be reached by car. The next storey, or entrance level, with doors opening directly into Hesperia Park, is dominated by the entrance hall, and also contains cloakrooms and other service space.

A broad staircase leads up to the foyers with entrances to the large and small auditorium, the restaurant, etc. Smaller staircases (one of which forms a visible exterior motif in the east facade) lead from the main foyer to the gallery-like balcony foyer and the doors to the main auditorium’s balcony. Principally responsible for the design of the interiors at Finlandia Hall were the interior designer Pirkko Söderman and the architect Elissa Aalto.

The small chamber music room, which has adjustable, shield-shaped acoustic screens attached to the ceiling, seats 350 people; the main auditorium seats 1,750.

The Finlandia Hall was inaugurated in December 1971. Planning of a congress section began even before the main wing was completed; the congress wing was ready for use as early as 1975. The idea was to improve the working conditions for conferences, an important aspect of the building’s use.

The congress wing, linked to the south end of the main building, contains a large foyer in addition to conference rooms and halls of various sizes. The west facade of the wing has large windows and rounded, concave hollows to make space for some of the old trees growing on the site – and to enliven the facade.

Artist community at Lake Tuusula and Villa Kokkonen in Järvenpää

The museums near the lake Tuusula display the history and the rich cultural heritage of Finland. A unique community of artists formed on the shores of Lake Tuusula in early 1900’s. Notable artists settled in the rural landscape and their works play an important role in the story of the Finnish identity. In artists’ studios of National Romantic style you can sense the historical atmosphere that generated the inspiring national spirit and the strive towards independence from Russia. Finland gained independence in 1917. Visitors can enjoy art and experience the past through artists, writers and composers of the Golden age of Finnish art. The artists’ studios takes you back in time to the National Romantic era and the other museums in the area exhibit the history of Finland in the 20th century.

Villa Kokkonen (1967—1969) is a real rarity among the private homes designed by Alvar Aalto, because Aalto designed the building as an artist’s home. The composer Joonas Kokkonen lived in Villa Kokkonen for 27 years. The architectural heart of the building is the unique combination of a grand piano and concert room.

Lake Tuusula is a perfect travel destination for it offers you plenty of interesting places to visit within easy reach. Lake Tuusula also offers great possibilities for outdoor activities in summer and in winter. A good bike route of 24 kilometres leads you around the lake in the beautiful landscape. There are lots of places for recreation close by, for example the Sarvikallio viewing point. It offers a spectacular view over the lake Tuusula, a view that inspired artists to portray this distinctively Finnish landscape in their work.

Lake Tuusula Road and the artist community

The road by the Lake Tuusula, Tuusulan Rantatie in Finnish, was part of a historical road connected to
Helsinki. It goes through the beautiful lakeside scenery all the way until the nearby city of Järvenpää. The
Lake Tuusula artist community had a major influence on the cultural history of Finland in the era of
National Romantic movement. Several artists of the golden age of Finnish art settled on the eastern bank of the lake in the late 19th and early 20th century.

The first ones to settle on the shores of Lake Tuusula were the author Juhani Aho and his artist wife Venny
Soldan-Brofeldt. In spring 1897 they rented a villa, which is now called Ahola and open as a museum. Their example inspired other artists to move there, to live and work in the peaceful surroundings close to nature.

The studio residence of painter Eero Järnefelt was built in 1901. Next year were finished the atelier of
painter Pekka Halonen, Halosenniemi, and the home of poet J.H. Erkko, Erkkola. The master composer Jean Sibelius moved with his family in 1904. Their villa is called Ainola after his wife, Aino Sibelius.

Today these five homes are open for visitors. They are located by the Lake Tuusula within a span of 5 kilometres. The Tuusulanjärvi artists’ community would have come to an end by the death of Jean Sibelius in 1957, but the community gained new momentum when Joonas Kokkonen cancelled his plans to move to Helsinki. Instead, he acquired a lakeside plot from the Town of Järvenpää at an affordable price and was able to hire the most famous architect in Finland to design his home. Villa Kokkonen is located nearby, on the other side of lake Tuusulanjärvi.

Alvar Aalto’s Villa Kokkonen

Villa Kokkonen (1967 – 1969) is a real rarity among the private homes designed by Alvar Aalto, because Aalto designed the building as an artist’s home. The composer Joonas Kokkonen lived in Villa Kokkonen for 27 years. The architectural heart of the building is the unique combination of a grand piano and concert room. The Tuusulanjärvi artists’ community would have come to an end by the death of Jean Sibelius in 1957, but the community gained new momentum when Joonas Kokkonen cancelled his plans to move to Helsinki. Instead, he acquired a lakeside plot from the Town of Järvenpää at an affordable price and was able to hire the most famous architect in Finland to design his home.

Villa Kokkonen is a single-storey and multifaceted wooden house that is immersed in natural light. The house itself is worth seeing.

In Villa Kokkonen you can experience the past and the present of the artist’s home. Villa Kokkonen was also one of the first Finnish houses to be selected in the network of Iconic Houses in 2012. The network includes some of the most famous house museums in the world.

House of Culture

The House of Culture was completed in 1958 close to the centre of Helsinki. It was designed as a multi-purpose building for the Communist Party of Finland. Apart from the concert hall, the building was intended to accommodate a variety of cultural activities.

The concert hall and theatre are in the redbrick, fan-shaped section of the building, and the office wing is in the rectangular section behind the copper façade. The main entrance is in a low section connecting the other two. The low canopy projecting over the entrance courtyard marks it off from the street, and links the parts of the building together.

With its Aalto furnishings and light fittings and its wealth of details, the House of Culture is protected by the Act on the Protection of Buildings. The building is in use as a concert and event venue.