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.

Ekenäs Savings Bank

Alvar Aalto was chosen to design Ekenäs Savings Bank in 1962. The bank is located right in the center of Ekenäs town, within Raseborg city. From the market place of Ekenäs, the bank appears to be a two-storey building, but actually it has three stories altogether. The impressive marble façade, opening to the side of the market place of Ekenäs, is similar in style to the Enso-Gutzeit main building in Katajanokka, Helsinki. The other facades of the building are slammed brick. Alvar Aalto was given complete freedom in the design process; most of the interior spaces and furnishings are also his creation.

Construction began officially in the summer of 1967, and was completed in November of the same year with the roofing, followed by celebrations. The first tenants of the building gradually moved in as early as February 1968, while the bank’s operations did not move into the premises until March 1969. In 1967, the name competition for the new bank building was also announced, won by the Ekecenter – Tammikeskus. The official inauguration of the bank building was held on the 110th anniversary of the Savings Bank in August 1969. Drawings for the second phase of Aalto’s project were published in 1976. Extension work was completed in 1986 under supervision of architect Sverker Gardberg.

Ekenäs Savings Bank still operates in the building. The bank hall is located on the ground floor and a lunch restaurant called Piazza is located on the third floor of the building. The building has included restaurant services since 1968.

Aalto also designed a restaurant to the upper floor of the bank building. Nowadays restaurant Piazza, with interiors inspired by Aalto, welcomes lunch goers

Restaurant Piazza also offers, upon request, a special Bank Manager menu, alongside a brief introduction to the interesting history of the building.

The Bank Manager’s menu includes:

  • Appetizer served to tables (mushroom soup served in a cup)
  • Main course from the buffet (fish, vegetable or meat option)
  • Desserts served to tables (small treat)

The Bank Manager’s menu features high-quality, locally produced ingredients and includes favourite delicacies selected by the current Bank Manager at the Ekenäs Savings Bank. The price for the dinner is € 35 per person. The Piazza is also suitable for groups (a minimum of 10 people) throughout the year, from 4 pm to 8 pm on weekdays or at weekends, and also during lunch time.

In addition to the dining experience, you can also have a guided tour of the old town of Ekenäs. Guided tours can be ordered in Finnish, Swedish and English. Another design by Alvar Aalto, Villa Skeppet, is located within walking distance from the old town. Villa Skeppet will open to the public in December 2020. 

Inquiries and reservations to the Piazza restaurant are handled by Päivi Purontaus, tel +358 50 387 1277, email

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.

Varkaus – industrial history, Lake Saimaa waterways and caviar

Lake Saimaa waterways that extend to the city centre, a lush natural environment and many destinations offer holidaymakers many opportunities in the Varkaus region. Specialties include the city’s own caviar, sturgeon delicacies, tattoo art and culture in Varkaus Tattoo museum, as well as the home of amazing instruments, the Museum of Mechanical Music.

Renowned building planners, including Ivar and Valter Thomé, Karl Lindahl and Alvar Aalto, were responsible for the urban landscape of the city of Varkaus in the first half of the twentieth century. The city built around industry has a unique architecture. This rich cultural history is presented by the museums of Varkaus and the online exhibits of the museums, theme tours by Guide’s of Varkaus, and by a walking tour of Vanha Varkaus (Old Varkaus).

If you want to admire the lakeland scenery you can take a cruise or a trip on a canoe. Fishing is possible in the middle of the city in Pirtinvirta waterway or in the extensive 3 000 hectare fishing area nearby. The Linnansaari and Kolovesi national parks nearby are paradises for boaters, and are also home to the famous Saimaa ringed seal. Watch the canal locks operating in the canal district of Taipale and learn stories about the construction of the canal in the Canal Museum.

Alvar Aalto’s industrial landscape in Varkaus

In Varkaus, you can get to know an old industrial town where Alvar Aalto’s influence is still vivid. He started as the designer of the Varkaus Mills in the mid-1930s and continued in this role for about 10 years. There were also a number of plans that never materialised. You will also see other old building history of Varkaus, enjoy the natural environment in the Lake Saimaa waterways and savour food indigenous of the Savo region.

Alvar Aalto, a trailblazer in functionalism, used his design to achieve a more progressive and equal society. In the 1940s, he assumed post-war reconstruction and its sensible implementation as his other key objectives. In Varkaus, Aalto drew up designs ranging from industrial buildings and town plans to the homes of ordinary people. The Varkaus house factory manufactured hundreds of standardised houses designed by him. These were erected in all parts of Finland.

The bicentennial industrial history of Varkaus is evident in the appearance of the town. Over the years, Varkaus has been the host of successful iron and engineering works, shipyards, sawmills, wood-processing plants and paper mills. The Varkaus of today is also renowned for its expertise in energy technology.

Part of the former industrial area has been converted into a modern fishery centre. Varkaus is able to offer rainbow trout, sturgeon and caviar grown in an environmentally benign manner in the waters of Lake Saimaa.

Industrial history is supplemented by the Museum of Mechanical Music, which presents the international history of mechanical music from the 19th century to the present 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.

Interior and Furnishing of the Savoy Restaurant

Aino and Alvar Aalto designed the interior of Savoy Restaurant, which occupies a commercial building in the centre of Helsinki. The restaurant’s furniture was commissioned from Artek. The Savoy has mostly kept its original appearance and is still a restaurant.

A. Ahlström Osakeyhtiö commissioned the commercial and office building called the Industrial Palace on the South Esplanade in 1937. Aino and Alvar designed the top-floor restaurant and the furnishings for the function rooms on the floor beneath it.

The Savoy Vase

In 1936, Alvar Aalto took part in an invited exhibition held by the Karhula-Iittala glass factory. His series of glass works “Eskimoerindens skinnbuxa” (The Eskimo Woman’s Leather Breeches) won the competition. These winning vases were first displayed to the public at the Paris World Exposition in 1937. One of the models was also chosen to be part of the new Restaurant Savoy’s furnishings. This design of vase came to be known by the name of the restaurant – Savoy.

Helsinki Energy Office Building

Helsinki Energy Office Building was designed for Helsinki Energy, former The Office Building of the Helsinki City Electricity Company. It is located in the the city centre of Helsinki, in Kamppi area. The building’s location is part of Aalto’s city-centre plan from 1961. Together with Finlandia Hall, Helsinki Energy Office Building is the only building realised part of Aalto’s city-centre plan. The designing process started in 1965 and the building finished in 1973.

Aalto designed the new building to form an integrated architectonic whole with the electricity substation already on the site from 1939. The electricity substation was designed by Gunnar Tacher. The buildings are linked by the line of their roofs. Therefore Helsinki Energy Office Building is a good example of the seamlessly combination of a new building with an earlier one. Helsinki Energy Office Building is nowadays a substantial part of the Kamppi cityscape. 

Apart from housing the company’s the head office, the building also has the main electricity and heat-generation control rooms, the electricity substation and the customer-service department. The street level was to be the customer-service floor, while the upper floors were reserved for offices. There were conference rooms on the top floor, plus the staff restaurant. The street-level customer-service hall got natural light from skylights, which resemble the ones that were also used in the National Pensions Institute building in Helsinki earlier.

Helsinki Energy Office Building was also a total work of art for Aalto’s office, therefore all the original interiors were also designed by Aalto. Over the years the interiors have been changed but in some spaces they have restored the furnishings back to the originals. The façades of the building are corrugated sheet copper and the current façade lighting is from the 1990s. Glazed blue and white ceramic tiles designed by Aalto were used for the interior walls of the building. 

Helsinki Energy Office Building is well-preserved in its original state as it has been in the care of its single owner for over 40 years. The building is still used for its original purpose and only a few alterations have been made, so Helsinki Energy Office Building has certainly withstood the passage of time well.

The surrounding areas in Kamppi district have gone through some changes over the years. The latest change being the Kamppi Shopping centre that was built in 2006. Helsinki Energy Office Building is nowadays linked partially to the centre for example with its underground passage. After the renovations, a coffee shop was also opened at the Helsinki Energy Office Building customer-service floor.

Book House

The Academic Bookstore, or ‘Book Palace’, is in Helsinki’s city centre, in the same block as the Aalto-designed office building, the Rautatalo. The building was finished in 1969 and it is still in its original use. The Academic Bookstore moved in to the building in October 1969.

The plot’s owner, Stockmann, held an architectural competition for the design of the building in 1961–62. Aalto won this with a proposal using the same ideas as in the nearby Rautatalo.

The design of the copper-clad façade on Keskuskatu takes into account the adjacent building’s façade. The building’s main interior space, the central hall, corresponds in its ideas to the marble interior courtyard of the Rautatalo. The central hall gets natural light from the prism-shaped skylights. The floor and closed balustrades of the balconies running round the central hall are of Carrara marble.

Alterations have been made to the interiors. Some of the rooms on the upper floors originally used for offices have been taken over for the bookshop. Nowadays, there are two cafes. The one in the second floor is partly furnished with original Aalto furniture from the Rautatalo cafe. Open for public as a bookstore and cafe.

Rautatalo Office Building

The Rautatalo Office Building was completed in Helsinki’s city centre in 1955. The building got its name (‘Iron House’) from the federation of Finnish hardware dealers that commissioned it. The main space is the light court, or marble courtyard, that extends from the first floor upwards.

Aalto’s office won the architecture competition for the building in 1951. Progressive in its day, the interior of this office building was meticulously designed, right down to the details.

Shop premises were sited on the lower floors. The office floors are built around a covered marble courtyard. The details of the light court lit by natural light evoke the architecture of the Mediterranean countries.

The Rautatalo is still in use as an office building. The building itself and some of its valuable interiors are protected by the Act on the Protection of Buildings.