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alvar aalto

Jyväskylä University 1951–71


volume 16



Alvar Aalto Museum / Alvar Aalto Academy

Editorial board

Esa Laaksonen, Director, Alvar Aalto Academy (editor-in-chief) Mia Hipeli, Chief Curator, Alvar Aalto Museum Pekka Korvenmaa, Professor, University of Art and Design, Helsinki Markku Lahti, Director, Alvar Aalto Foundation Timo Tuomi, Director, Espoo City Museum


Mia Hipeli

Picture editors

Marjo Holma Marja-Liisa Hänninen Katariina Pakoma Risto Raittila

Graphic design

Teppo Järvinen


Gareth Griffiths Kristina Kölhi

© Alvar Aalto Foundation, Tiilimäki 20, FI 00330 Helsinki ISBN 978-952-5498-12-7

alvar aalto



Jyväskylä University



contents acropolis in the pine forest




the park area for jyväskylä campus


contemporary photographs


seminaarinmäki architecture after alvar aalto


selected drawings


Päivi Lukkarinen Alvar Aalto, 1951

Mari Forsberg

Maija Holma

Kristo Vesikansa

From the Archives of the Alvar Aalto Museum

works 1951–71

134 Mia Hipeli, Katariina Pakoma Competition entry for the Lyngby-Taarbaek cemetery and funeral chapel, Denmark 135 The Master Plan for Kaskinen 140 Pamilo Hydro-electric Station and Staff Housing 141 Aerola. Housing and Service Building for Aero Ltd 142 Jyväskylä University, Seminaarinmäki Campus map 144 Competition entry URBS 146 The Main Building of the University of Jyväskylä 147 Teacher Training School Gymnasium 148 Student Gymnasium Building Swimming Hall 149 Staff Residential Building 151 Lyhty Teachers’ Cafeteria 152 Lozzi Student Cafeteria Naatti Student Dormitory 154 Teacher Training School 156 Heating Plant 157 Library 158 Jyväskylä College of Education seal 160 Student Union Building Library and administration building 162 Institute of Physical Education 163

abbrevations 1 2 3 4


Sketch of the Jyväskylä University. Lyhty teachers’ cafeteria. Sketch of the Main Building. Architects Alvar Aalto, Aarne Ervi and Elissa Aalto in the lobby of the Jyväskylä University in 1964.

166 text sources 166

further reading


index illustration sources

172 174


acropolis in the pine forest Päivi Lukkarinen


 he Jyväskylä College of Education campus

“The main purpose of the present article is to underline a fact that is often prone to some kind of misunderstanding. That is, specifically, that the pure, original landscape, with all its allure, cannot replace the view where traces of man’s hand is discernable, where ‘man’s mark’ has been added as a harmonious, enhancing factor.”1 The above excerpt from a text by Alvar Aalto gives an indication of the values of the 27-year-old architect, who at that time had already acquainted himself with the landscapes of southern Europe.2 Even though the text deals with the juxtaposition of the natural and cultural landscape, it is an appropriate link to the Jyväskylä College of Education campus that the mature Alvar Aalto later built in his home town. Apart from the Säynätsalo Town Hall, the Jyväskylä campus is Aalto’s most notable work in Central Finland from the 1950s. Both came about as a result of an architectural competition and both represent the confident architecture of Aalto’s mature period. The Jyväskylä campus is situated in scenery very familiar to Aalto. The topography of the city, with its glacial ridges, had fascinated the young Aalto who in his journalistic writings of the 1920s expressed not only his admiration for the landscape of Central Finland but also proposed that the ridge dominating Jyväskylä required constructions worthy of it.3 At that point in his life Aalto did not get the opportunity to realise his dream. The opportunity arose for the architect at the height of his career, however, when he received the commission to design the new buildings for the Jyväskylä College of Education. But did the opportunity present itself or did in fact Aalto himself create it? Whatever the case, Aalto got to put his own mark on the ridge, and the town of Jyväskylä received a crown designed by its own son.

Home town in Central Finland Alvar Aalto was five years old when his family moved in 1903 to Jyväskylä, which was then a typical Finnish small town. The city centre had at that time already been built in accordance with a grid plan placed in the sloping terrain between the moraine ridge cutting through the town and Lake Jyväsjärvi.4 The long streets were oriented following the north-east to south-west direction of the ridge, while the short streets descended from the ridge to the lake. The ridge gave the street grid some character, unlike in several other Finnish towns where the regular grid plan did not at all take into account the form of the terrain.5 The Aalto family lived in Jyväskylä from 1904 onwards at number 22 Harjukatu Street (nowadays Yliopistonkatu Street), the street that ran adjacent to the ridge.6 After he qualified as an architect in Helsinki, Aalto returned to Jyväskylä in 1923 in order to establish a career as an architect. Aino Marsio and Alvar Aalto were married in October 1924, and in December that same year moved into a house at number 18 Seminaarinkatu Street.7 Here, too, the ridge influenced the landscape surroundings of the Aaltos’ dwelling, but now on its lower, southern part, known as Seminaarinmäki – the very same area that would become an Aalto building site 25 years later.8 Seminaarinmäki, which rose up adjacent to the Aaltos’ home, had attained its status in the 1880s when the new buildings of the Jyväskylä Teacher Seminary were built.9 In a town of one-storey wooden buildings the tall teacher seminary buildings were a source of pride, and it was said that they shone on the ridge like the “Acropolis in Athens”.10 The previously mentioned comparison and the nickname for Jyväskylä – the Athens of Finland – were readily linked with the town known as the abode of Finnish language culture.11

Alvar Aalto ”Keskisuomalaisen maiseman rakennustaide”. The article was published a year after Aalto’s first trip to Italy. Sisä-Suomi 28.6.1925; reproduced as “Architecture in the landscape of Central Finland” in Schildt 1997, 21 (English translation modified). 2 In the text one can see the young Aalto’s critical reference to the ideal landscape of the Finnish National Romantic period that had been in fashion only a few decades earlier. 3 Aalto wrote articles for local Jyväskylä newspapers during the 1920s. He discussed Jyväskylä and its surrounding rural landscapes in articles published in Keskisuomalainen, 22.1.1925, and Sisä-Suomi, 28.6.1925. In the former article he proposed an improvement to the problematics of the new stairs that spoiled the ridge, and in the latter the means by which the damage that had been caused to the landscape of Central Finland could be repaired by building and planting. Schildt has analysed these articles in his book Alvar Aalto: The Early Years (Schildt 1984), and they are reproduced in the book of Aalto’s texts edited by Schildt titled Alvar Aalto in his Own Words (Schildt 1997). 4 In the cityscape of Jyväskylä the glacial ridge is still today outlined as several smaller pinecovered ridges, which in places form a calm and soft-lined background for the urban structure. For a geological history of the ridge see Forsberg’s article in the present monograph. 5 The city of Jyväskylä was founded by Russian Tsar Nikolai I in 1837. See Tommila 1972, 12. The town plan for Jyväskylä, with a final input from architect Carl Ludvig Engel, was ratified in 1838. The grid plan area was a rectangle in the centre of which was a church square. According to the building ordinance of the time, the wooden buildings could not be more than one storey high. See Lilius 1989, 194–195. The Finnish predilection for grid plans stemmed already from the 17th century (Lilius 1988, 54), reached its peak in the 19th century, and still today crops up as a fashionable trend in urban planning. 6 Archival list of Aalto’s addresses, AAM.The street number mentioned in several publications is number 10, which was the number corresponding 1







35 36


31 A sketch of the main building. 32 A section of the building through the Festival Hall. The lower hall is the actual Festival Hall, while the upper hall is a lecture hall that can be joined to it. The softly curving shapes bring to mind the lines of the ridge landscape. Scale 1:500. 33 A view of the front of the Festival Hall towards the rear hall. The rooflights allow indirect natural light. 34 The exposed concrete beams of the Festival Hall emphasise the scallopshaped curved roof. 35 A section through the building at the administration wing, thoroughfare hall and Festival Hall. The circular rooflights of the thoroughfare hall were changed in the later planning stages to oblong ones. Scale 1:500. 36 A section through the thoroughfare hall; on the right, the small lecture hall of the administration wing. Scale 1:250. 37 The upper floor of the administration wing, where the two small lecture halls are situated. 38 The thoroughfare hall. The natural light from the rooflights reflects off the marble surfaces of the staircase. The light-coloured floor levels are linked to the brick wall of the stairs.





the park area for the jyväskylä campus Mari Forsberg


 he park area

The first teacher seminary in Finland for the training of primary school teachers was founded in Jyväskylä in 1863. The institute received its own premises at the end of the 1870s in the southwest corner of the city. The site was on the south-east slope of the approximately 10,000 year-old terminal moraine at the edge of the ancient Päijänne lake system.1 The forested ridge, cutting through the city from north-east to south-west, is part of the so-called Central Finland terminal moraine, and dominates views of the city.2 The position of the teacher seminary on the high glacial ridge, named Seminaarinmäki, gave it a visible location in the landscape of Jyväskylä. As time has passed, however, the increased building in the surrounding area and the growth of the pine forest on the ridge has decreased the visibility of the buildings on Seminaarinmäki. The vegetation in the area has come about and developed partly naturally and partly under the influence of culture. Only about three hectares of the original ridge pine forest have remained after building construction. The Moirislampi valley basin situated in the north part of the ridge is, unlike the rest of the area, a dense and lush deciduous woodland. On Seminaarinmäki, on the slope between the ridge and Lake Jyväsjärvi, the vegetation is mainly pine trees with natural under vegetation, as well as traditional yard and garden vegetation on the slope of the glacial ridge.3 The Seminaarinmäki park area, part of the University of Jyväskylä botanical gardens, covers an area of about 20 hectares.4 The park area north and east of the university main building is called Seminary Park, while the park grounds surrounding Aalto’s buildings make up the so-called Aalto Park. Nowadays, when acquiring new plants for Seminary Park, manor-house varieties from the teacher seminary period are planted, while for Aalto Park the same species that were used originally in the 1950s and 1960s are planted in the same locations.5

Jyväskylä Teacher Seminary and teaching garden activities

Kampus keskellä Suomea 1995; web site, 15.2.2008. Maisemasuunnittelu Hemgård 1994, 57. 3 Maisemasuunnittelu Hemgård 1994, 57. 4 The University of Jyväskylä Botanical Garden, founded in 1990, is part of the Natural Science Section of the Jyväskylä University Museum. It presently comprises the green areas of the university at Seminaarinmäki, Mattilanniemi, and Ylistönrinne. The total area of the park, including parks and natural forest, is 36 hectares. Presently, 120 different arboreal plants and 70 different grasses grow in the park. The University of Jyväskylä Botanical Garden comprises an extensive plant collection, with 570 different plant varieties. There are an imposing 17,000 plants in the garden’s collections. Jyväskylän yliopiston museon toimintakertomus 2006, web site, 3.3.2008. 5 Seminaarinmäen viheralueiden hoito-ohjeet 2007, 1–3. JYM. 6 The Harju ridge steps designed by architect G. Wahlroos were built in 1925. 7 Schildt 1984, 203–204 (translation modified); ”Eräs kaupunkimme kaunistustoimenpide ja sen mahdollisuudet”. Ksml 22.1.1925. 8 Karjula 2001, 136. TAIKU. 9 Since the inception of the position, Jernström worked as the Helsinki City Gardener, but he never held the position on a permanent basis. Even though Jernström was seen as a worthy gardener, he lost the competition for the permanent position of Helsinki City Gardener to a Swedish colleague in 1889. Jernström’s curriculum vitae was impressive: he had supervised the planting of the Runeberg Esplanade, Kaisaniemi Park and several public squares in Helsinki; he had worked in the Imperial Botanical Gardens in St. Petersburg, the Humboldthain Park in Berlin, and the Sanssouci castle gardens in Potsdam. From Berlin Jernström received a work reference signed by Gustav Meyer, director of the Berlin parks. Häyrynen 1994, 77–78. 10 Karjula 1998, 25–28. TAIKU. 1


In the writings from his youth, Alvar Aalto often deliberated on various aspects of the building construction taking place in his home town, Jyväskylä, and particularly its grid town plan. He had a particular affinity for the natural forms of Jyväskylä and the tall glacial ridge that rose up in the middle of it. In 1925 Aalto analysed the steps6 being built on the ridge: “It is really an extraordinary mistake that Jyväskylä’s stiff grid plan, indifferent and insensitive to the terrain, has even here at the steps been drawn as a geometric necessity when making a town plan for the ridge… Already the ground level of the ridge, which is covered by pine needles and moss, bending down like a soft baldachin, goes, however, against the flower-covered stairway built from piles of rocks. When solving the issue, one should have emphasised the character of the ridge surface, and not weigh it down and destroy the impression it makes with a stairway colossus. The only true objective of architecture is: Build naturally. Do not over do it, do not do anything unnecessary. Everything that is superfluous becomes ugly with time.”7 The size of the area reserved for the teacher seminary was over 12 hectares. In connection with its construction in 1879–83, it also received its own garden on the fields of the ridge, and the whole park area was later named Seminary Park. The garden was the first teaching garden for the aid of primary school education.8 The original garden plan for Seminary Park was designed in 1880–82 by gardener L. A. Jernström. Jernström had acquired work experience abroad and worked as a gardener for the City of Helsinki at the beginning of the 1880s.9 Due to his busy schedule, Jernström was unable to supervise the construction work in Jyväskylä, and so supervision was delegated to the teacher seminary’s own gardeners.10 During its early years, Seminary Park was a carefully planned totality in terms of the landscape and botany. The park was situated on a beautiful vantage point by the lakeside. The area included forest,



179 The main building; lecture hall C4 180, 181 The main building; lecture halls.







seminaarinmäki architecture after alvar aalto Kristo Vesikansa


he end of Alvar Aalto’s involvement in the design of the University of Jyväskylä at the end of 1970 is an appropriate symbol for the break in the planning of Finnish universities generally. Instead of unique academic monuments, what was now being designed were anonymous construction systems that could be flexibly adapted and extended in response to difficult to predict future needs.1 As in most other European countries, the university institution in Finland expanded greatly during the 1960s and 1970s as those born immediately after the Second World War, the baby-boom generation, entered the universities. The aim of the legislation passed in 1966 was to develop the university institution during the period 1967–81, tripling the number of students to 60 000. In the spirit of regional policies, four new universities were founded in provincial cities during the following years. Also the existing universities were considerably expanded.2 The centralised planning of the universities caused strong resistance amongst the Leftist student movement at the end of the 1960s. Also in Jyväskylä the design of new buildings was perceived as undemocratic and secretive – a model example of what a technocratic oligarchy at its worst can lead to.3 The Nordic planning competition for the University of Jyväskylä, 1969–70 The Jyväskylä College of Education had changed its name in 1966 to the University of Jyväskylä. Its building programme could not keep up with the rapid increase in student numbers, and so had been forced to rent temporary accommodation in the centre of the city.4 Alvar Aalto had originally considered the area of single-family housing south of the campus as the appropriate expansion area for the university. However, the tall blocks of flats that had sprung up along the Keskussairaalantie Road had made that impossible.5 In 1966 the Finnish government set up an advisory committee for the design of the University of Jyväskylä area. As a result of their work, a two-stage Nordic competition was held in 1969–70 for the design of the extension area. It was estimated

that by 1981 there would be 6500 students at the university, and the competitors were asked to prepare plans for a later increase of 80% beyond that figure.6 According to a Ministry of Education decision on principles, the main part of the buildings should have been placed south-east of Lake Jyväsjärvi. On the basis of the results of the first stage of the competition, however, the jury recommended placing the Faculties of Education and Social Sciences at Mattilanniemi, the area adjacent to the north-west shore of the lake, and placing only the Faculty of Mathematics and Science at Ylistönrinne on the opposite side of the lake. Additionally, the jury requested that the area on the southern slope of Seminaarinmäki be reserved in the long term for the use of the university or student union.7 The competition was won by architect Arto Sipinen,8 whose two-storey “mat building” urban block structure on the shore of Lake Jyväsjärvi was, like the other prize-winning proposals, a reflection of the structuralist ideals current at that time.9 Instead of a spacious separate university campus, Sipinen’s aim was to integrate tightly the student milieu within the surrounding community and city. Particularly the ‘Latin quarter’ he proposed for the area between Seminaarinmäki and Mattilanniemi would have functioned as a connecting link: a small-scale group of residential buildings, commercial premises, restaurants, cinemas, club facilities, backyard industries, etc. The new university buildings were linked to the old campus via a pedestrian route about one kilometre long, which in the perspective drawings was populated by citizens of various ages, ranging from peace activists to bikini-clad beach girls.10 The library, administration building and arts buildings (Arto Sipinen, 1974) Irrespective of the results of the Nordic architectural competition, Aalto’s office continued with the design of the new library and administration building situated north of the main building. The

Vuorinen 2005. The University of Joensuu and Lappeenranta University of Technology were founded in 1969 and the University of Kuopio in 1972. Vaasa School of Economics was founded in 1966. Eskola 2002, 222–258. Additionally, Tampere University of Technology was founded in 1972. 3 In Jyväskylä also some of the teaching staff joined in the critique by the students. Puut eivät kaadu vähin äänin 1971. 4 The Department of Philosophy had been founded in Jyväskylä in 1958, the Faculty of Sport and Health Sciences in 1963 and Faculty of Mathematics and Sciences in 1965. Jyväskylän yliopiston pohjoismainen suunnittelukilpailu 1969, 6 –7 [University of Jyväskylä Nordic Architectural Competition]. 5 Aalto 1971. 6 In 1969 there were 4800 students at the University of Jyväskylä. Jyväskylän yliopiston pohjoismainen suunnittelukilpailu 1969 [University of Jyväskylä Nordic Architectural Competition]. 7 Arkkitehtuurikilpailuja 1/1971. 8 Arto Sipinen (b. 1936) gradated as an architect from Helsinki University of Technology in 1961 and founded his own office in 1965. He is particularly well known for his numerous cultural buildings, such Espoo Cultural Centre (1980 – 89), as well as both city halls and municipal halls. Aartomaa 2001. 9 Kirmo Mikkola and Juhani Pallasmaa, the most fervent proponents of systems architecture in Finland, stated that their major influence was the competition proposals made by architects Candilis-Josic-Woods and the theories of open form put forward by Polish architect Oskar Hansen, a professor at the Warsaw Academy of Fine Arts. Pallasmaa 1967; Mikkola 1969. 10 Arkkitehtuurikilpailuja 1/1971 The buildings for the Faculty of Social Sciences were built in Mattilanniemi in 1980–84. The buildings for the Faculty of Mathematics and Science at Ylästönrinne and the light-traffic bridge spanning over the lake were completed in 1991–99. The last building designed by Sipinen for the University was the Agora Center, completed in 1



243 244


243 Teacher training school; partial ground floor plan of the central wing. 10.1952. Scale 1:400. AAA 42-1359. 244 Teacher training school; plan of the classroom floor. 24.11.1951. Scale 1:400. AAA 42-1352. 245 Teacher training school; section. 24.11.1952. Scale 1:400. AAA 42-1354. 246 Teacher training school; north facade. 24.11.1951. Scale 1:400. AAA 42-1356.


245 246

Alvar Aalto Architect Volume 16

Jyväskylä University 1951–71 Alvar Aalto designed the Jyväskylä College of Education, nowadays the University of Jyväskylä, as an addition to the campus area, following an invited competition held in 1951. Aalto was already familiar with the varied terrain of the lake-side town from his childhood and school years. In his plans the new buildings are situated amidst the existing buildings of the teacher seminary dating from the end of the 19th century. In her article Acropolis in the Pine Forest Päivi Lukkarinen focuses on the cultural background factors to the design and the first stages of the construction of the buildings following the planning competition. In her article The Park Area for Jyväskylä Campus Mari Forsberg discusses the importance for Aalto of the totality comprising the earlier building stock and the surrounding park – the campus was indeed built in the middle of the arboretum and teaching garden, created in the 1890s, that was central to the teacher training. The college of education became a university in 1966. Kristo Vesikansa’s article Seminaarinmäki Campus after Alvar Aalto presents the buildings completed since the 1970s designed by architects other than Alvar Aalto. The changing needs to the building stock of the academic milieu have been multifaceted, as the functions have diversified and the number of students has increased. The book also includes all the previously unpublished material for Alvar Aalto’s “URBS” proposal from 1951, including the competition drawings as well as photographs of the model and Aalto’s competition report. The Works section of the book, compiled by Katariina Pakoma and Mia Hipeli, presents a selection of buildings and unrealised projects by the Aalto office contemporary with the design of the University of Jyväskylä.

ISBN 978-952-5498-11-0


Alvar Aalto Architect volume 16 Jyväskylä University 1951-57