Alvar Aalto in Helsinki

The maritime Helsinki is the biggest city in Finland and home for several buildings designed by Alvar Aalto. It also contains a wide range of other Finnish architecture from different centuries and decades.

Born in the small rural municipality of Kuortane, Alvar Aalto graduated as an architect in 1921 from the Technical University of Helsinki. In 1923, he established his first office in Jyväskylä, carrying the grandiose name “Arkkitehtuuri-ja monumentaalitaiteen toimisto” (Office of Architectural and Monumental Art). The office first moved to Turku and from there ultimately to Helsinki in the early 1930s.

Earlier in his career, Aalto had participated in several major architectural competitions in Helsinki, such as for the Parliament building and Olympic Stadium.

Designed in tandem with his wife Aino Aalto, also an architect, the family’s home was completed in Munkkiniemi in Helsinki in 1936. At that time, the Munkkiniemi area was not yet officially a part of Helsinki. The Aalto house now serving as a home museum was also designed to have a studio wing for use by the architectural office. Aalto knew the area well: as an example, in the early 1930s he designed a residential area (which never materialised) for the M.G. Stenius company in Munkkiniemi. The housing area designed for the employees of the National Pensions Institute were, in turn, completed in Munkkiniemi in 1954.

A new building was built in 1955 in Munkkiniemi near Aalto’s home to serve the needs of the expanding architectural office. Alvar Aalto’s studio is now the head office of the Alvar Aalto Foundation and a popular attraction among architectural travellers.

Several buildings designed by Alvar Aalto have been erected in the Helsinki region over the years. The head office of the National Pensions Institute and Enso-Gutzeit Co. Headquarters with their interiors were designed with great care down to the minutest detail for the needs of demanding clients. The centre of Helsinki houses buildings open to the public, such as the Rautatalo Office Building and the Academic Bookstore as well as Restaurant Savoy, which has kept its original interior from 1937 designed jointly by Aino and Alvar Aalto.

The House of Culture was completed near the centre of Helsinki in 1958. You can get to explore this building with a rich history and still used for versatile concerts and other cultural events during guided tours.

In 1959, the City Executive Board of Helsinki commissioned Alvar Aalto to draw up a plan for the central Kamppi-Töölönlahti area. Aalto outlined a new monumental centre for Helsinki, but ultimately only a small portion of the plans were brought to fruition – the Finlandia Hall is the only building of the row of cultural buildings planned along the Töölönlahti bay that was ever built.

The Finlandia Hall was designed as a conference and concert venue, and it is one of the last buildings designed by Aalto’s office. The Finlandia Hall was designed in 1967 to 1971 and 1973 to 1975. Alvar Aalto died in 1976, soon after the Finlandia Hall was ready. This building can be visited on guided tours and in conjunction with various events.

Kulttuuritalo-Helsinki-photo-Alvar-Aalto-Foundation
Kulttuuritaloa pidetään yhtenä Aallon punatiilikauden mestariteoksista. Kuva: Alvar Aalto -säätiö
Finlandia-sali
Finlandia-salissa jokainen yksityiskohta on tarkkaan harkittu. Kuva: Alvar Aalto -säätiö
arkk 43-2
Aallon mukaan konserttisalin suunnittelussa akustiset tarpeet olivat etusijalla. Kuva: Alvar Aalto -säätiö
Alvar_Aalto_House_interior_Helsinki_Alvar_Aalto_Foundation kopio
Ateljee_sisäkuva_AAS kopio

Sites in Alvar Aalto in Helsinki

Finlandia Hall in HelsFinlandia Hall in Helsinki photo Rune Snellman Alvar Aalto Foundationinki

Finlandia Hall

Alvar Aalto in Helsinki / 1962/1967-75

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…

Finlandia Hall in HelsFinlandia Hall in Helsinki photo Rune Snellman Alvar Aalto Foundationinki

Interior and Furnishing of the Savoy Restaurant

Alvar Aalto in Helsinki / 1937

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. Ahlström Oy commissioned the building of a commercial and office…

Finlandia Hall in HelsFinlandia Hall in Helsinki photo Rune Snellman Alvar Aalto Foundationinki

Helsinki Energy Office Building

Alvar Aalto in Helsinki / 1965-73

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…

Finlandia Hall in HelsFinlandia Hall in Helsinki photo Rune Snellman Alvar Aalto Foundationinki

National Pensions Institute, Main Building

Alvar Aalto in Helsinki / 1953-56

National Pensions Institute (The Social Insurance Institution of Finland) Head Office is close to the centre of Helsinki. The richly nuancedly monumental main building represents the best of Aalto’s office buildings. The building (1953-1956) is still in its original use. Aino and Alvar Aalto won the design competition for the…

Finlandia Hall in HelsFinlandia Hall in Helsinki photo Rune Snellman Alvar Aalto Foundationinki

National Pensions Institute, Housing Area

Alvar Aalto in Helsinki / 1952-54

Seen in the cityscape the redbrick high-rise blocks form an integrated whole. Alvar Aalto designed these blocks of flats in Munkkiniemi, Helsinki, for the employees of the Social Insurance Institution of Finland. The collaboration with the National Pensions Insitute and the Aalto’s had already begun a couple years before. Aino and…

Finlandia Hall in HelsFinlandia Hall in Helsinki photo Rune Snellman Alvar Aalto Foundationinki

Academic Bookstore

Alvar Aalto in Helsinki / 1961-69

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,…

Finlandia Hall in HelsFinlandia Hall in Helsinki photo Rune Snellman Alvar Aalto Foundationinki

The Aalto House

Alvar Aalto in Helsinki / 1935-36

In 1934, Aino and Alvar Aalto acquired a site in almost completely untouched surroundings at Riihitie in Helsinki’s Munkkiniemi. Aino and Alvar Aalto designed the building, whose simple, natural materials soften the form language of modern architecture. Designing their own home gave them an opportunity to make various structural and…

Finlandia Hall in HelsFinlandia Hall in Helsinki photo Rune Snellman Alvar Aalto Foundationinki

Studio Aalto

Alvar Aalto in Helsinki / 1954-55, 1962-63

Alvar Aalto designed the building at Tiilimäki 20 in Munkkiniemi as his own office in 1955. Because of a number of large commissions, the office needed more space to work in. The building is only a short walk from Aalto’s own house, where the office had previously been located. Studio…

Finlandia Hall in HelsFinlandia Hall in Helsinki photo Rune Snellman Alvar Aalto Foundationinki

Erottaja Pavilion Emergency Shelter Entrance

Alvar Aalto in Helsinki / 1949-51

Erottaja Pavilion is one of Helsinki’s earliest Aalto-designed buildings. This small building intended as an emergency-shelter entrance is close to Helsinki’s city centre. The Pavilion building is part of a larger plan for a traffic system for the Erottaja district. Aalto’s office won the architectural competition for the entire Erottaja…

Finlandia Hall in HelsFinlandia Hall in Helsinki photo Rune Snellman Alvar Aalto Foundationinki

Enso-Gutzeit Co. Headquarters

Alvar Aalto in Helsinki

The Enso-Gutzeit Headquarters building was completed in the centre of Helsinki, in a prominent place in the Southern Harbour, in 1962. Now Stora Enso’s Headquarters, the building is one of Aalto’s most controversial works. Aalto wanted to design a new head-office building to be part of Helsinki’s shoreline silhouette. The…

Finlandia Hall in HelsFinlandia Hall in Helsinki photo Rune Snellman Alvar Aalto Foundationinki

Rautatalo Office Building

Alvar Aalto in Helsinki / 1951-55

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…

Finlandia Hall in HelsFinlandia Hall in Helsinki photo Rune Snellman Alvar Aalto Foundationinki

House of Culture

Alvar Aalto in Helsinki / 1952-58

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…

Information for visitors

Good to know

Arriving to Helsinki

Helsinki is within easy reach with public transport and by plane. There are daily connections either by train or by Matkahuolto and Onnibus buses. Helsinki Airport serves both domestic and international customers.

Public transport within Helsinki city is very good with its buses, trains and trams. With the help of the Journey Planner, you can check easily the timetables and routes to the Alvar Aalto sights in the capital.

Read more about other sights in Helsinki

Please note that you can purchase publications as well as download architectural drawings about Aalto’s architecture in Helsinki from Alvar Aalto web shop!