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Alvar Aalto as a Designer – The Whole Story T

he Alvar Aalto Museum in Jyväskylä boasts the world’s largest collection of objects designed by Alvar Aalto. Currently, the collection comprises 770 pieces of furniture, 200 light fittings and almost 700 glass objects, pieces of gold and silver jewellery, textiles, bent wood items and various prototypes. The objects on display in the permanent exhibition of the museum are only a fraction of the entire collection. The Alvar Aalto Foundation is currently working to establish a showcase of Aalto’s design oeuvre in central Helsinki. In the opinion of the foundation, the best venue for such an exhibition would be the centrally located Rautatalo office building, designed by Aalto in the 1950s. The building is famous for its skylighted marble atrium, a piazza, complete with a staircase with Italian influences connecting it to Helsinki’s latest pedestrian street, Keskuskatu. In the 1960s, Rautatalo housed the flagship stores of both Artek and Marimekko, which also anchors it to the history of top Finnish design.

ARX Architects / 3D Render Oy

The new exhibition will present the entire development of Aalto’s career as a designer, with a hundred or so hand-picked items on display. State-of-the-art technology will be utilised in the display. In addition to design items, the exhibition will present examples of Aalto’s urban plans and architecture. The Rautatalo premises could also be an ideal place for temporary exhibitions of new Finnish design as for a design shop. The Alvar Aalto Design Centre (AAMU) is now in its planning stage, with financing negotiations currently under way. Optimistically, the Alvar Aalto Foundation believes the exhibition will open its doors on Alvar Aalto’s birthday in February 2012, when Helsinki is the World Design Capital.

Mikko Mansikka

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Inside the Villa Mairea

Chosen as One of the Finest Finnish Books of 2009


INSIDE thE VILLA MAIREA Art, Design and Interior Architecture alvar aalto museum and mairea foundation edited by Kirsi Gullichsen and ulla Kinnunen

ublished by the Alvar Aalto Museum and the Mairea Foundation, Inside the Villa Mairea – Art, Design and Interior Architecture received an award in the Finest Books of the Year competition of the Finnish Book Arts Committee. The winner was Amour unit deux cœurs – Henry Lönnforsin miniatyyrikokoelma – Henry Lönnfors miniatyrsamling published by the Turku Art Museum with graphic design by Minna Luoma. The Finnish Book Arts Committee commends Inside the Villa Mairea as a work of cultural history at its best, noting: The excellent design of the book leads the reader within the Villa Mairea to view art, objects and architecture, to step into the timeless world of beauty along the way. The rhythm of the layout with its skilful choice of illustrations also creates the warm and

intimate feel of a home while never giving the reader the role of an uninvited viewer. The typography is proficiently executed and the printing work is of high quality. The Finnish Book Arts Committee has chosen the Finest Books of the Year since 1947. The selection takes note of typography, materials, technical execution, and the overall impression made by the layout. Inside the Villa Mairea was awarded in the competition’s series evaluating the artistic design, technical execution and appearance of books. The graphic design is by Kirsi Gullichsen, Susanna Raunio and Teppo Järvinen. Published in English, Inside the Villa Mairea is available in bookstores and from the Alvar Aalto Museum’s web shop at

Ulla Kinnunen

In This Issue

E.M.Staf, Teppo Järvinen, Aimo Katajamäki, Maija Holma / AAM

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Building a new Finland 2

Living in the Villa Kokkonen 3

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Design Seminar 4

Muurame Church 5 Opening Hours 8

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2 E.M.Staf


EXHIBITIONS Aalto, Ervi and Revell – the builders of a new Finland

Alvar Aalto’s estate


he year 2010 marks the centenary of the birth of both Viljo Revell and Aarne Ervi. Two exhibitions commemorate the work of Revell and Ervi, arranged by the Didrichsen Art Museum and the Museum of Finnish Architecture, respectively. Studio Aalto in Helsinki is now a venue for an exhibition presenting the architectural cooperation between Alvar Aalto, Aarne Ervi and Viljo Revell. Ervi worked at Aalto’s office between 1935 and 1937. Ervi’s classmate from the department of architecture, Revell also worked at Aalto’s office between 1936 and 1937. During 1936, Aalto’s office moved to a new building at Riihitie – now known as the Aalto House – which housed both the office and the home of the Aalto family. Contemporary projects involving both Ervi and Revell included the design of Finland’s pavilion for the World’s Fair in Paris. During the Continuation War, both Ervi and Revell were called back from the front to join the redevelopment bureau, founded by the Finnish Association of Architects and headed by Aalto. In early 1942, the project evolved into the Standardisation Institute, and the development of the Building Information Files system, constantly in use in Finnish building and architecture, was initiated. The three architects stayed connected after the war. Every now and then, the younger colleagues wrote to inquire about Aalto’s opinion on some issue. The professional circles

Viljo Revell, Alvar Aalto and Aarne Ervi

were small, and all three were sometimes involved in the same architectural competitions, either as competitors or members of the jury. Based on the documents archived in the Alvar Aalto Museum, the exhibition presents the professional collaboration of the three architects, initiated at Aalto’s office in the 1930s and continued in the wartime and post-war redevelopment bureau and Standardisation Institute. Aalto, Ervi and Revell were all founding members of the Museum of Finnish Architecture. The exhibition consists of drawings, photographs and authentic documents. The curators of the exhibition are Mia Hipeli, Arne Hästesko and Tomi Summanen. It is open at Studio Aalto in conjunction with guided tours throughout 2010.

Tomi Summanen

The architects were actively involved in the post-war redevelopment effort.

Brilliance 24 h

The Alvar Aalto Museum receives the Valaistustyö Viljo Hirvonen collection


t the end of 1952, the Helsinki-based master metalsmith and electrician Viljo Hirvonen (1916–75) founded Valaistustyö, a company specialising in the manufacture of light fittings and metal objects. Skilled at and interested in metalwork, Hirvonen was equally fascinated with the design and manufacture of light fittings. From the time of founding his company, he worked in close collaboration with Alvar Aalto. The factory, located in Tinasepäntie in the Metsälä neighbourhood in Helsinki, became the main manufacturer of Aalto-designed light fittings. It also manufactured other Aalto-designed objects: handles and knobs, furniture legs, and jewellery. The collaboration between Hirvonen and Aalto was smooth and lasted until Hirvonen’s death. His clients also included some other designers besides Aalto. The Valaistustyö operations waned soon after Hirvonen’s death. The remnants of the factory were packed away in boxes and stored – and forgotten. They remained in oblivion until Hirvonen’s widow, Toini Hirvonen, passed away in 2008 and their daughter, Helena Ruokojärvi, decided to hand the Valaistustyö estate over to the Alvar Aalto Museum in Jyväskylä. In 2009, the factory remnants were used to create the Valaistustyö Viljo Hirvonen collection. It comprises samples of almost everything that was required, manufactured, or in the pipeline at the factory. These include various materials, tools, parts of light fittings, half-completed light fittings and prototypes, handles and knobs, and furniture legs, as well as small objects, or parts of objects, included in the Artek collection. In all, the collection includes 414 objects or sets of objects. The wellpreserved factory records form the other part of the collection. Brilliance 24 h, the Alvar Aalto Museum’s exhibition to open in June 2010, is based on this collection.

Exhibition AAM

Alvar Aalto Museum, Gallery from 2 June 2010 to 2 January 2011 An exhibition on the collaboration between the owner of Valaistustyö and master metalsmith Viljo Hirvonen, and the architect Alvar Aalto between 1953 and 1975


lvar Aalto presents his views on his collaboration with Viljo Hirvonen as follows: “…these metal-based assignments were realised in such a way that they originate from my sketches, and then, through countless experiments and interactions, the desired result has been reached. In this respect, the skill, enthusiasm and self-sacrifice of master Hirvonen have been priceless, positively contributing to the quality and overall standard of the results.” The core of the exhibition is formed by the light-fitting models designed by Aalto and implemented by Hirvonen over the twenty years of their collaboration: Mehiläispesä (beehive), Kultakello (golden bell), Juolukka (bilberry), Ylioppilas (student), Nuttura (chignon), Käsikranaatti (hand grenade), Lentävä lautanen (flying saucer) and other models. The introduction of the manufacturing processes leads viewers into the fascinating world of light-fitting production. Also introduced are Viljo Hirvonen, some of his products, and his company, Valaistustyö Ky. Various small objects were also manufactured at the factory for the Artek collection: watering cans, coffee pots, sugar basins, cream jugs, candlesticks, lanterns, mirrors, brushes, and so on. These were designed, for example, by Maija Heikinheimo and Hellevi Ojanen, as well as the master metalsmith himself. These nearly forgotten objects will be on view to the public in the Alvar Aalto Museum exhibition. Both masters – Aalto and Hirvonen – designed jewellery, too. The exhibition allows the comparison of these two rather different ‘jewellery artists’. The script of the Brilliance 24 h exhibition is created by the Alvar Aalto Museum personnel and the exhibition design is the penmanship of designer Jonas Hakaniemi. The exhibits are from the Alvar Aalto Museum collections or on loan from private collections. A book will be compiled from exhibited materials, scheduled for launch in 2011.

Kaarina Mikonranta

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was rather ascetic. True, there were pieces of clean-lined and beautiful Artek furniture there, but they were only black or white. But it was easy to add a little variation using textiles and works of art. As I remember, the plan for the interior was created by an interior designer from Aalto’s office. The furniture was complemented little by little over the years. Joonas’s favourite chair was Artek’s big armchair (note from the editor: product code B 506), which withstood everyday use surprisingly well. My favourite spot was the corner of the sofa in the studio,” Anita Kokkonen recalls. The architecture was toned down, for example, by the travertine floor and the dining hall walls with their wooden battens and cloth upholstery, which, however, proved a little tricky when hanging paintings. The sailcloth fitted to the ceiling of the studio functioned as both an acoustic element and a filter to the general lighting hidden behind it. The acoustic of the room resembled that of a small chamber music hall. The striking wooden sculptures of Manu Hartman, originally part of the set of Joonas’s opera The Last Temptations, blended in with the interior, as if by design.

nature almost enters the interior through the large windows. A spectacular view opened through the windows in all seasons. The trees were silhouetted against the landscape as in Japanese woodblock prints! The plot was dominated by spruces and pines, and it also impressed me with its rich birdlife. We used to feed little birds in the winter. The seeds did, in fact, also attract all the pheasants in the neighbourhood to the spot. The pergola leading to the sauna, covered with creepers, was an object of constant admiration for us, and a decorative sight in wintertime, too,” says Anita Kokkonen. Was the cast-concrete, irregular swimming pool frequently used back then? “There was water in the pool in the summer, but other than that, it had a mainly aesthetic function. The pool was unheated, so the water stayed cold throughout the summer, and I do not think I ventured a dip once. My daughter and her friends, on the other hand, were constantly splashing in the pool. And once our two dogs fell into the empty pool, when they were wrestling on the edge.” The Villa Kokkonen has a flat roof, which is much-maligned in Finland. How were your experiences with it? “When I was living there, the roof gave us no problems whatsoever. A local building contractor, Paavo Koivuniemi, Joonas’s childhood friend, took care of the building and its maintenance. He was an invaluable help to us and already involved when the house was built. The appropriate maintenance was naturally done, when necessary. The sauna had a charming sod roof with daisies, but unfortunately we had to have it replaced, because we could not find anyone who could restore it. When Joonas requested an offer from the construction company Lemminkäinen, they gave the laconic reply: ‘We do not do gardening.’ When we could not find anyone anywhere who could do it, the sod roof was never restored.” Today, the Villa Kokkonen is an international attraction and cultural tourist destination hosted by the singer Antti A. Pesonen and the pianist Elina Viitaila. As a former occupant, do you have anything you would like to say to the entrepreneur couple currently in charge of the house and its operations? “First of all, I would like to say that I am really happy that the house is being looked after by classical music professionals. I am sure they will be able to appreciate the architectural and musical legacy of the house. Already when we lived there, there were groups of people interested in both Aalto and Kokkonen who used to come and admire the house. Generally, we let the visitors, mostly foreign students, onto the grounds to admire the building, sometimes all the way inside the building. I hope that enthusiasts, also from Finland, will continue to visit the house in the future. And I am all in favour of using the house as a small-scale concert venue,” says Anita Kokkonen.

A house among the spruce trees Living in the Villa Kokkonen In a little spring chat, Anita Kokkonen (born 1929), the widow of the composer Joonas Kokkonen (1921–96) reminisced about the years she lived in the Villa Kokkonen. She married Kokkonen in 1980 and moved straight away to Tuulimyllyntie in Järvenpää. The house was designed by Alvar Aalto between 1967 and 1969 for his friend Joonas Kokkonen. After Joonas Kokkonen’s death, the city of Järvenpää took possession of the building. Anita Kokkonen’s time living in the Villa Kokkonen lasted for 16 years.


he building is situated in the middle of rather dark woods and its street facade looks quite shut and expressionless. What kind of first impression did the Villa Kokkonen make in 1980? “Of course the building made quite an impression – both its exterior and interior. The closed facade facing the street may appear a little uninviting, but the bedrooms on the side of the courtyard were shady in the summer and pleasantly protected from the heat of the sun. In fact, we used to call one of the bedrooms a ‘den’. Otherwise, the interior was bathed in light. That was wonderful,” says Anita Kokkonen.

Matti Hirvonen

Peace for the composer to work The most imposing room in the interior is the spacious and highceilinged studio. In the design phase, Aalto drew an extra 70 m2 of space for the house compared to what the customer originally had in mind. This extra space was specifically added to Joonas Kokkonen’s studio. It was sectioned off from the other spaces by a soundproof sliding door. Composing was a quiet affair, the silence only interrupted by the sound of occasional chords on the piano. The purpose of the door was to dampen the everyday noises of family life and offer the composer privacy for work. Otherwise, the common area of the studio was frequently used both by people living in the house and by guests. The living room was practically used only for watching television. The house was extremely comfortable. In the ‘public’ part of the building, the space, as it were, flows from one room to another and the spatial solutions – even with the extra-high ceiling in the studio – produce an intimate, not at all grandiose, feel. “The spaces were practical for our needs. My youngest daughter, who also moved in with me, got her very own private place in the servant’s room behind the kitchen. The design of the spaces intended for a more public use showed Aalto’s masterful touch, but I have to say that the extra square metres lavished on the studio in the design phase were probably pinched from the kitchen. It is small and astonishingly impractical. I venture that it was drawn by a male assistant of Aalto… And if I can offer a little more criticism, the windows without eaves did require almost constant cleaning,” says Anita Kokkonen. Holistic thinking – the harmony of architecture and space, furniture, materials, and colours – is essential in Aalto’s design. How did the furniture and materials fit in with the architecture and mood of the Villa Kokkonen? “When I moved in, the interior

Joonas and Anita Kokkonen in the common area of the studio in the 1980s.

The house featured two open fireplaces with an organic formal idiom. “We had a tradition that on Christmas Eve we always used to admire the Christmas tree with the fire blazing. Obviously we had the fire going at other times, too. With their curved forms, the fireplaces were staggeringly beautiful to the eye, even without the fire.”

Bringing nature indoors The building is located in a large plot and it opens onto the courtyard, which is typical of Aalto. The sunny garden side is terraced down towards the sauna and the swimming pool in front of it. “Aalto’s great ability to fuse a building with nature can be witnessed here in the inner court. One could say that

Anita Kokkonen was interviewed by Katariina Pakoma, curator at the Alvar Aalto Museum. k at

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TOPICAL PROJECTS In Search of Product Identity The Invisible Design Seminar on 21–22 August 2010 in Jyväskylä


August 2010, the city of Jyväskylä will once again receive friends of design when the two-day Invisible Design Seminar opens at the University of Jyväskylä. As on previous occasions, the event will feature acclaimed international superstars of design, such as Ross Lovegrove of England, Naoto Fukasawa of Japan, Inga Sempé from France, Monica Timo Salli Förster of Sweden, and Clemens Weisshaar from Germany. Also coming from Germany, Professor Hans Maier-Aichen, founder of the Authentics brand. Finland will be represented by Professor Simo Heikkilä, who launched this series of design seminars in 1995, and by Professor and designer Timo Salli as chairman of the present seminar. This year’s theme is “Invisible”. Consumers are rarely made aware of the long process of product design – from the initial planning and design to manufacturing. The designer’s work is often invisible and anonymous. A designed product is readily regarded as an expensive luxury item, although most designed objects are intended to make everyday life easier. In many cases, the role of art and creativity also remains unseen in mass production. Where did the idea for the “Invisible” originate? “We are living in a period of change. The requirement of ecology is self-evident and we designers must shoulder what responsibility we can on behalf of our profession. But it is obvious that the designer alone cannot solve all the problems of product and environmental design, and that we also need the support of

industry and manufacturers. Since sustainability has become quite a hackneyed term, the idea was to find a new concept that would lead slightly deeper into product-related thinking. Our choice was ‘Invisible’,” says Timo Salli. The speakers at the seminar are all noted and established international designers and influential actors in the field. “This time they also happen to represent three different age-groups. Hans Maier-Aichen approaches the subject in a highly philosophical manner, while at the same he is the founder of the renowned Authentics brand of products. Solid Finnish design thinking and experience are represented by Simo Heikkilä. The somewhat younger speakers Naoto Fukasawa and Ross Lovegrove are currently engaged in their careers in design, both of them are quite prominent figures. “Ross Lovegrove has a command of publicity that could even be described as heroic. As the artistic director of Muji, Fukasawa, on the other hand, engages in anonymous product design in the manner of Finland’s Kaj Franck, and yet everyone knows Fukasawa. Of the speakers, the women designers Monica Förster and Inga Sempé work in more traditional ways, designing durable products of quality. This makes it easier to approach the idea of original products. The youngest speaker, Clemens Weisshaar seeks to break down conventional operating processes and moves with ease in electronic networked contexts in his work,” notes Timo Salli. 

Many roles of a designer Timo Salli teaches design at the School of Art And Design of the Aalto University and is also a well-known influential figure in the field. He gained international celebrity as a designer in the late 1990s through his involvement in Snowcrash group. He has also been noted as a curator of exhibitions and design events, among other work. Salli’s most recent project is Lovesick, presented in collaboration with Mikko Paakkanen at the Milan Furniture Fair in April 2010. The idea for this project evolved during a recent flight to New York. “I happened to have a bandage on my ring finger, and to pass the time – Mikko and I began to develop a project from it. Since lovesickness or new passions are always

Olli-Pekka Orpo

emerging, so why couldn’t a whole collection of objects be created around the theme of love? We proceeded from the ring-bandage theme to design jewellery, and invited graphic designers Teemu Suviala and Antti Hinkula of Kokoro&Moi to participate. And since it is so difficult to sell jewellery, we developed a shop-inshop concept with jewellery in beautiful bandage-like packaging on show in a glass ‘medicine cabinet’,” Salli reveals. In the early summer of 2010, the Lovesick Project will go on to Berlin, where, according to present plans, it will be on display at the Kippis shop of the Finnish gallerist Kari Kenetti. In his spare time, Timo Salli relaxes at the dock of the historic Suomenlinna Fortress off Helsinki, where he is converting an old sailing vessel into a combined gallery, bar and studio. “Of course an old ship is an ideal for me, for I appreciate craftsmanship and quality that has required an immense number of working hours. In the future, the vessel may develop into a small manufacturing facility where everything would be transparent – from the design work to the sales of products.” Professor Timo Salli, designer and chairman of the Invisible Design Seminar observes: “Authenticity and purity are part of the reliability of a product. Young consumers with their command of the Internet can easily check the backgrounds and stories of all the ideas, so it wouldn’t be necessary to create cover stories for the products. I hope that seminars like Invisible would interest an increasingly younger critical audience.”

Aila Kolehmainen



Mari-Jatta Rissanen appointed curator of education

or i g i n of pr oduct i de ntit y


6 th international alvar aalto design seminar au g u st 2 1 – 2 2 , 2 0 1 0 , j y vä s k y l ä , f i n l a n d Naoto Fukasa wa • Simo Heikki lä • Inga Sempé Timo Salli • Ross Lovegr ove • Monica Förste r Cle men s Wei ssh aar • Han s Mai er-A iche n

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ari-Jatta Rissanen started work as the curator of education at the Alvar Aalto Museum in the beginning of 2010. She is by education a visual arts teacher (Master’s degree), art educator (Master’s degree) and artisan in ceramics. Previously she worked as a teacher and lecturer on the Mikkeli University of Applied Sciences degree programme in cultural management. “Already while studying, I became interested in works of visual art in which space or setting – temporal and multisensory experience – were strongly present. My view of architecture draws on spatial and installation art, as well as environmental and community art. In my thesis for The Aalto University School of Art and Design, I focused on studying early placerelated experiences and memories. In architecture, I am particularly interested in spatial experience and the transformation of a space into a place impregnated with meanings and narratives,” says MariJatta Rissanen.

Place experience as a starting point Mari-Jatta Rissanen wants to make architecture and design education available to an even wider audience. According to Rissanen, splendid work has been done at the Alvar Aalto Museum over the years with observers and visitors of various ages. “This is something that compels us also in

the future. Architecture education and its availability to audiences should cover all age groups, from children in day care to senior citizens.” The workshops and exhibition guidances are part of a bigger educational whole. Every museum visitor brings with them their personal experiences. After the visit, visitors’ thoughts are unravelled at schools, nurseries or nursing homes. This produces lasting memory imprints, and people learn and absorb new things. “Personal experience and narrative provide fertile soil in which general basic concepts of architecture and design education can be planted. We approach Alvar Aalto’s works first through themes and study what kinds of spatial experiences and settings they offer to those who experience them,” says Mari-Jatta Rissanen. “A space becomes a place when we assign meanings to it. Personal and multisensory place-related experience and awareness of one’s relation to the environment are the essence of architecture education.” An online discussion forum focusing on themes and phenomena in architecture and design education will be launched in autumn 2010 in the upcoming museum pedagogy section of our website. “Everyone is welcome to join the discussion and to build and make visible a common space,” says the new curator of education, Mari-Jatta Rissanen.

Mirkka Vidgrén

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Aalto’s dramatic way of using natural light could already be seen in the sketching phase.

Devoted to the purity of form – the Muurame church by Alvar Aalto

can be found in “architettura minore”, the anonymous folk architecture of small towns in Tuscany. Most of the building’s original, toned-down decorative motifs were left out as the design work proceeded. The classical decorative motifs were replaced with smooth wall surfaces, and the entrance, which in the original design was decorated with reliefs and framed by a triumphal arch, was reduced to a functionalist rectangle. The decorative motifs were also minimised in the bell tower, and only a simple fluted frieze was left. As requested by the parish, Aalto replaced the originally intended forged angel figure on the top of the tower with the characteristic symbol of a sacral building, the cross. Aalto designed the indoor spaces of the well-proportioned church according to the acts of worship. Functionalism in the church is shown particularly in the way in which the parts of the building that serve different uses have been separated into distinct entities. By opening the interior doors, the parish hall can be connected directly with the church hall. For atmospheric variation in the undecorated church, Aalto used, for example, lighting. Strong sidelight falls on the altar in the church hall, the source of which, the tall and narrow window in the chancel, is invisible to the churchgoers. Aalto’s sense of drama could also be witnessed in the colour scheme of the interior. As a contrast to the pitch-black ceiling of the barrel vault, the dark plank floor and the anthracite grey rows of pews, the wall surfaces were painted white. To the ends of the rows of pews, Aalto added brass candlesticks. When the candles were lit, the passage to the altar resembled a path of torches. On Aalto’s recommendation, William Lönnberg (1887–1949) was commissioned to paint the altarpiece.

The Muurame parish has started planning a project to restore one of Alvar Aalto’s early works, the Muurame church (1926– 29), which has been remodelled over the years. If the plans are realised, the church will be largely restored to its original form.

The Italian Renaissance painter Fra Angelico’s painting The Annunciation (approx. 1430) has been considered the model for the loggia supported by the arcade arches. The painting was included as an illustration in an article Aalto wrote at Finnish Aitta 1926, in which he describes the connection between the internal and external spaces of a building.

The project plan includes a number of suggested actions. One of these is the possibility of constructing a chapel, a crypt, in the cellar of the church as a venue for small-scale events. It is also important in the future to consider the significance of the church as a local tourist attraction. Also involved as an expert in the church renovation project is the architect Tuula Pöyhiä from the Alvar Aalto Museum’s Architectural Heritage Department. Art history student Päivi Ollikainen will be compiling a building history report on the church as her thesis. If the plans proceed as scheduled, the implementation of the renovation is likely to start in 2011.


he young Alvar Aalto established his first architectural office in the city of Jyväskylä in Central Finland. In the 1920s, many local parishes commissioned projects from him. Many of these commissions were renovation projects of existing churches and focused on changes to the churches’ interiors and on the design of ecclesiastic objects. In addition to the renovations, Aalto drew plans for new churches, of which the only one realised was the church designed for the small Muurame parish between 1926 and 1929. Aalto landed the commission without an architectural design competition – the poor parish could not afford to arrange one. Aalto’s local knowledge and personal connections probably won him the assignment. The three-year design and building phase fell in a very interesting transition period in Aalto’s architecture. As the design proceeded, the church building’s Italian and classicist influences were complemented with features brought on by International style, or functionalism.


Towards the end of the design phase, Aalto remodelled the essentially classicist church by adding some modern innovations. The rational, more “northern”, solutions include the PH light fittings, designed by the Danish architect Poul Henningsen, and the steel window frames of Dutch origin. The floors of the vestry and the altar were covered with dark brown vitrified tiles from a German ceramics factory. In the spirit of the times, these standard European products were considered suitable for secular and sacred spaces alike. Indeed, Aalto used them in many buildings he designed at that point in his career. The unique pieces of furniture in the vestry anticipate his future career as a furniture designer. In the Muurame church, the young Aalto used the same design solutions that were to become characteristic of his later works. These include the skilful use of natural light, the harmony between open and closed spaces, and the connection of the built space to its environment and nature.

A white church in a village setting

Restoration plans

The building of the new church began in May 1928 and it was consecrated in June 1929. Oriented in the north-south direction, the white-plastered building, standing in the Muurame village landscape on a ridge between two lakes, is a single-nave long church. Rising to the eastern side of the building is a campanilestyle bell tower, while on the western side there is a parish hall, located transversely to the nave, with a view opening through the large paned window to the birch woods surrounding the church. The church hall windows stand out from the smooth wall surfaces as vertical strips. The lower part of the transverse frame opens up as a small hall with columns, a loggia framed by arcade arches. The church garden was originally marked off as a “rose garden” by a crenellated wall, which was later pulled down. Alvar Aalto wrote that in his church design he sought “pure and devout form” and hoped that the undecorated and strippeddown church would serve “the solemn aspirations of a solemn people in their search for the truth”. These ideas coincided with the wishes of the poor parish: they wanted a beautiful church building that would be affordable to implement. The classical, restrained and stripped-down form of the church is a ‘souvenir’ that Aalto brought home from his honeymoon trip to Italy a couple of years earlier. A model for the Muurame country church

The interior of the church has undergone several changes over the decades. Just a couple of years after completion, its colouring was changed to a lighter scheme, following the demands of parishioners. The most drastic changes were made at the end of the 1970s, when the refined interior was lost, for example, with the introduction of wood panelling, a new altar construction and alterations to lighting. Times have changed, and the parish is now ready to restore this small country church to a form that is as close to the original as possible. The Jyväskylä-based architect Jussi Kantonen (from Arkkitehtitoimisto ARK-Kantonen Oy), who is responsible for the church renovation plan, has confirmed that the project plan will be completed in autumn 2010. Sufficient time has been allowed for planning, and restoration and lighting professionals will be used in the project. Colour specifications will be made by the Finnish restoration company Ukri Oy and the general lighting will be designed by the Italian company iGuzzini, which has experience in the sophisticated upgrading of the lighting of sacred buildings to match today’s requirements. Kantonen is also experienced in renovating Aalto buildings; a couple of years ago, he planned the thorough renovation of the interior of the Jyväskylä Workers’ Club (1924–25).

Katariina Pakoma An interview with the architect Jussi Kantonen and the theses of Anne Pihlajaniemi and Taru Valkama were used as source material.

Suggested actions in the project plan Exterior: – renew the roof, the lime coating of the facades, and the necessary metal flashings – remove the chimney that was added later – make the main entrance accessible for the disabled (by raising the ground near the stairs or by introducing a wheelchair ramp) – restore the “rose garden” and the crenellated wall encircling it (picture above) Interior: – repair the roof structures and restore the original panel surfaces – restore the original colour scheme of the interior – restore the original square altar rail – renew the ends of pew rows according to the original style (the existing, renewed pews will be kept); restore the anthracite grey colour of the pews – replace the doors connecting the parish hall to the church hall with ones that are similar to the originals – replace the church hall pendant lamps with currently produced models of the original PH light fittings

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Built landscape

European Heritage Days, 11 and 12 September 2010


– an Aalto gem in Kainuu

An institutional building with teaching and accommodation facilities is a rare building type among the projects of Alvar Aalto’s architectural office. Moreover, when it is located in the remote Kainuu region in northern Finland, one can say it is a real gem.


he settlement house Kainula was designed and built between 1954 and 1957. It is told that the assignment was initiated by a chance meeting of Aalto and doctor of theology Sigfrid Sirenius, a leading figure of the Finnish settlement movement, while on a trip. The project architect at the Kainula site was Lina-Christina Aaltonen. She worked for Aalto’s office in the early 1950s and participated, for example, in the design of the Finnish Engineers’ Association Building. The surviving drawings indicate how carefully the various alternatives were studied. By comparing the variations in the twenty-odd floor plans as they follow one another, it is possible to acquire a deeper understanding of the design process itself. As an example, the facade material changed from wood to red brick as the design proceeded. Forming the central series of spaces are the main entrance and entrance hall downstairs, the central hall upstairs with its fireplace, and the assembly hall. The residential spaces are grouped around a separate stair hall. The spaces encircle the inner court higher up on a hillside, creating an intimate feel. By

contrast, the building’s public front, main north facade facing Sissikuja, and west end, are three storeys high and have a more closed look, which has been emphasised further by the monopitch roof sloping down towards the hillside. Soon after the institute started operations, a project to extend the building was also launched. It was initially sketched at Aalto’s office (1961), but the realised extension, well-suited to the overall design, was eventually planned by the architect Osmo Sillman (1964). What makes Kainula impressive is its intimate scale and the fact that it maintains its original essence. Both the space layout and materials are well-preserved. By way of an example, in some of the rooms you can see that the dropped ceiling integrated into the concrete intermediate floor is clad in Toja board, a typical material of the time. April 2010 saw the completion of a preliminary plan to renovate the institute building, supported by the European Regional Development Fund, with Sillman Arkkitehtitoimisto as the principal designer. Hopefully the spirit of the building can be preserved in this necessary renovation. The Kainula building is located right next to Kajaani city centre (Sissikuja 3). Precisely because of its rare authenticity, it pays to visit the building during the institute’s opening hours.

Tuula Pöyhiä


Mirkka Vidgrén


volume 20



Perspective drawing

alvar aalto

The assembly hall is dominated by the irregular roof structure, cast in reinforced concrete. The hall is also frequently used as a sports facility.

his year, the theme of the European Heritage Days in Finland is Built landscape. That offers fascinating perspectives on the historical layers of landscape and the human role in shaping it. The purpose of the event is to awaken people to a realisation that their own everyday surroundings are significant and a part of our shared cultural heritage. “The traditional rural landscapes, manor house surroundings and historic city centres are valuable and acknowledged environments that often overshadow our everyday surroundings,” says the event coordinator, the Finnish Local Heritage Federation. Several contributing factors and layers go towards making up cultural environments, so the diversity of life can be seen and felt in them. We all have memories and experiences of built landscapes, whether as a street we lived in, a park, or a childhood hut. These experiences can include stories, associations, odours and moods. During the European Heritage Days on 11 and 12 September, the Alvar Aalto Museum will open a discussion forum on its website dedicated to this theme. What environment do you treasure, and what elements and sensations does it include? You are welcome to share your experiences!

maison louis carré


Have you purchased the first five volumes of the Alvar Aalto monographs? Find the monograph series and more than 120 other books on Aalto and architecture on sale at


Pamilo power plant.

What’s new on the Alvar Aalto Foundation website

Lieksankoski power plant.

Unknown Aalto design in North Karelia


ore than one hundred books have been published on Alvar Aalto’s architecture, with the main emphasis on public buildings and private houses. Of the many Aalto-designed industrial buildings – approximately 50 projects – only Sunila and one or two other factory areas are known, but his power plants, for example, have been ignored in research and other writing. Aalto’s first power plant design was the 1926 unfinished competition entry entitled Deux et machina for realisation in Imatra in the South Karelia region. In the 1940s, he submitted a striking entry to a design competition for the Merikoski power plant in Oulu in the Northern Ostrobothnia region, but his design was not realised. In the following decade, Aalto was commissioned to design the control building of the Pamilo hydroelectric power plant owned by Enso-Gutzeit (1954). The shape of the roof refers to other Aalto designs: the Säynätsalo town hall and the Muuratsalo experimental house. The irregular window openings are another architectural refinement that makes the white building

planted in the rugged eastern Finnish landscape a small work of environmental art. The Aalto-designed Lieksankoski power plant was completed in 1960. This time, he designed the entire power plant complex, and its powerful architecture distinctively marks the Koitajoki landscape. The dominating architectural feature is the concrete brise soleil solution covering the entire long, paned glass wall from the outside. Aalto used this Mediterranean idea of Le Corbusier, with the purpose of preventing direct sunlight and heat radiation from entering the building, in a way that makes the power plant an architectural attraction. Aalto’s last power plant design in Pankakoski (1960–62) is a routine technical realisation, in which the architect’s hand can hardly be seen anywhere except in the bronze door handles. Also located in Lieksa is the Mätäsvaara mining village, with a town plan created by Aalto. Several Aalto-designed prefabricated one-family houses have survived in the village, some of which are preserved in their original 1940s form.

Markku Lahti

The Alvar Aalto Foundation will update its website during spring 2010. The aim is to make the site clearer and more user-friendly. The coming addition will be a section entitled Design top 10+1. It presents the most requested Alvar Aalto furniture and light fitting designs, accompanied by photographs and basic information. Maps will be added to the pages presenting Aalto buildings, to make it easier for architecture tourists to plan their itineraries. Spring 2010 will see the launch of a photography competition that you can enter by sending your own snapshots of Alvar Aalto architecture or design. For more information, see The competition encourages you to look at the built landscape and the surrounding world of objects with fresh eyes.

Mirkka Vidgrén mirkk

alvaraalto . fi




– art, technology and design since 1935

Alvar Aalto Library in Vyborg to celebrate its 75th anniversary


he restoration of Viipuri Library, designed by Alvar Aalto and completed in 1935, is proceeding little by little within a tight budget. The restoration is planned, supervised and monitored by the Finnish Committee for the Restoration of Viipuri Library, which is also responsible for documenting and reporting work progress. Tatjana Svetelnikova, library director since 1994, retired at the end of 2009. However, she still continues work as deputy director, with responsibilities including the restoration of the library. Her office is located in the former caretaker’s apartment, which was renovated to accommodate the restoration studio between 1997 and 2000. The studio also acts as an office to Elhan Ahundov, property manager of the library. Elena Rogozina, who has a long career at the library, has started work as the new director. The restoration of the lecture hall is to be completed this spring, allowing the building’s 75th anniversary celebrations on 13 October 2010 to take place in this magnificent space. The entrance hall was renovated with funds from the 2009 Vyborg city budget. In 2010, the city has allocated 1.5 million rubles (approx. €37,500) to planning the restoration of the reading room. In October 2009, the book Alvar Aalto Library in Vyborg, Saving a Modern Masterpiece was published. The book, published by Rakennustieto Publishing, is available for sale from the Aalto online shop at, the Building Information Ltd. E-store at publishing or from bookshops such as the Academic Bookstore.


oday the 75-year-old company is constantly expanding into international markets, with the latest stores opened in New York and Stockholm. The 75th anniversary celebration also sees an international series of events, during which renowned designers and companies meet the challenge of providing Aalto’s classic lounge chair 400 with a new look. The art campaign, DRESS THE CHAIR! was launched in Stockholm in February 2010 with a fresh interpretation by Ilse Crawford. The project will continue to Milan, New York, Sydney, London, Tokyo, and finally, Helsinki. Artek

Elena Rogozina, Tatjana Svetelnikova and Elhan Ahundov.

Artek was founded in 1935 by four young idealists: Alvar and Aino Aalto, Maire Gullichsen and Nils-Gustav Hahl. The business idea of the company was “to sell furniture and to promote a modern culture of habitation by exhibitions and other means.” Ahead of their time in many ways, the founders of Artek advocated a new kind of environment for everyday life. They believed in a grand synthesis of the arts and wanted to make a difference in urban planning as well as architecture and design.

The designer Enzo Mari assembles a Sedia 1 chair

During the Milan Furniture Fair in April 2010, Artek launched brand new furniture by top designers, including a shelf system by the Japanese Naoto Fukasawa, and the Sedia 1 chair by the Italian Enzo Mari. Both are designed for everyday use for the future in the spirit of Aalto, honouring handicraft and traditional

Artek / Missoni

“Artek is a sales and propaganda centre for the new housing ideology.” Nils-Gustav Hahl, 1935

skill. The event also saw a launch of recent collaboration with international partners under the DRESS THE CHAIR! theme, such as the 400 lounge chair and the three-legged Stool 60 upholstered in patterns by the Italian fashion house Missoni. A historical moment of two internationally esteemed design brands meeting in Milan: it was at the Milan Triennale in 1936 that the 400 lounge chair started its international success story. While honouring the heritage of its founders the company trusts in pioneering designers and new technologies. The objectives are set in sustainability, relying on high quality and top design. At the international design fair in Milan, Artek launched a film called ‘The Essence of Form’, based on the philosophy of Enzo Mari. “The vision of Artek 2010 is to cherish its founders’ philosophy on the significance of bold ideas, culture and education. Critical, well-informed consumerism is challenging the design industry. Functional form, high quality, and the ideal of lasting beauty are the only valid signposts for a true encounter of ethics and aesthetics. Industrial design, which fundamentally stems from an optimised union of manufacture and finished products, is once again topical in its rationality. The emotional level related to the experience of beauty creates a commitment between the owner and the object. Do we dare to possess something for the rest of our lives? The time is once again ripe for idealism, and you can only create something new if you swim against the current,” summarises Mirkku Kullberg, Managing Director, describing the future vision of the company.

Aila Kolehmainen

Maija Kairamo

Artek / Missoni (

Robert Seger

Huonekalutehdas Korhonen Oy celebrates 100th anniversary Huonekalutehdas Korhonen, the maker of Aalto furniture, celebrates its 100th anniversary in 2010. Honouring the heritage of the founder of the company, the cabinet maker Otto Korhonen, and the designer Alvar Aalto, the company has manufactured timeless high-quality furniture in Kaarina, near Turku since the 1930s.


ince its early years, Huonekalutehdas Korhonen has successfully combined Finnish handicraft traditions and technical innovations. Otto Korhonen, the founder and managing director of the family business, was a creative personality, eager to experiment and carry out new ideas. In Turku in the 1930s, Korhonen met a young architect, Alvar Aalto, who became a lifelong kindred spirit and collaborator. In 1929, Aalto worked as the exhibition architect for a fair commemorating the 7th centenary of the City of Turku, together with Erik Bryggman. The exhibition included a bedroom with standard chairs by Alvar and Aino Aalto, and traditional furniture by Otto Korhonen. For quite some time, Aalto had been looking for a joiner interested in experimenting with bent wood. In Otto Korhonen, Aalto found a fellow pioneer who welcomed the challenge without prejudice. Designs were sketched on cigarette boxes and restaurant tablecloths. They also exerted creativity

with regard to strength testing, throwing a three-legged stool from one end of the workshop to the other to find out how it did. To sum up the success story that continues to this day: Aalto provided the forms, while Korhonen contributed his technical and structural expertise as well as knowledge of moulds and manufacture. The collaboration between Otto Korhonen and Alvar Aalto started a furniture factory that gained phenomenal international fame and esteem. The operations of Huonekalutehdas Korhonen are still based on timeless, functional, environmentally friendly products and top quality design. Their clients are companies who invest in high-quality, long-lasting furniture such as Artek and Mobel. Today, the fourth generation of the Korhonen family cherishes the traditions and continues the business, supported by a staff of top professionals. “A team of dedicated, qualityminded professionals will guarantee the success of our factory in the ever-hardening competition,” says Jukka Korhonen, Managing Director.

Aila Kolehmainen

alvaraalto . fi


The Rautatalo commercial building was originally designed and built during the years 1951–55. Over the years, it has housed the legendary Café Colombia along with well-known design firms, such as Artek and Marimekko.




GALLERY FOR TEMPORARY EXHIBITIONS 2 June 2010 - 2 January 2011 Brilliance 24h Alvar Aalto & Viljo Hirvonen & Valaistustyö Ky

INTERNET EXHIBITIONS Alvar Aalto’s life elamascreen.htm Säynätsalo Town hall Paimio Sanatorium 1928–33 A building, which brought the young Alvar Aalto a worldwide reputation. paimio.html Chairs index.htm


The Alvar Aalto Design Centre Project Making Headway


Rautatalo - Aalto’s entry ‘Casa’ won the invitational competition, which was held in 1950–51 - Designed and built between 1952 and 1955 - The name of the building, Finnish for “Iron House”, came from the client, the Finnish Hardware Dealers’ Federation. The owners have changed later - A grid-like copper-clad façade sought to harmonize with near-by building by Eliel Saarinen - The interior spaces were built around a covered “marble courtyard” paved with white Carrara marble and lit with round skylights - Travertine-faced gallery levels and shops set off from the marble courtyard with glass walls - Café seating 120 designed by Aalto – including furniture and lightning with a small fountain, Artek shop and gallery etc - Aalto first designed the organically shaped bronze door handle which became a hallmark of his later works for the Rautatalo building - An international course on the conservation of modern architecture (MARC) organized by ICCROM was held in 1999 with the Rautatalo building as a study case - Included in the DOCOMOMO list as a nationally important work of modern architecture - The Rautatalo commercial building, including parts of its interior, is officially protected under Finland’s Building Protection Act - Privately owned, no public access

Villa Mairea en/index.htm

TOURING EXHIBITIONS Drawn in Sand. Unrealised visions by Alvar Aalto In Sand gezeichnet. Entwürfe von Alvar Aalto 10 April - 20 June Ulmer Museum, Ulm, Germany 23 September - 20 October Freie Akademie der Künste, Hampug, Germany 27 October - 8 December Wolfsburg, Germany

The concept of the centre is for the street space of adjacent Keskuskatu to continue to a piazza on the second floor of the building, as originally envisioned by Alvar Aalto. Following the original idea, this space would have a café, and a design shop or similar activities have been suggested. The starting point of the plan is for the public to have free access and the opportunity to see the piazza inside the Rautatalo building, which is now closed. In international perspective, the architect Alvar Aalto is known above all as a designer. For many years, Helsinki has lacked a venue for specifically presenting Aalto’s contribution to design. The project aims at opening the centre to the public on 3 February 2012, the birthday of Alvar Aalto, in conjunction with the events of the Open Helsinki World Design Capital 2012 year. Pekka Timonen, who is leading preparations for Helsinki’s year as World Design Capital 2012, is happy to note the plans for the Rautatalo building: “This is a good example of the major positive and prominent developments that we hope the World Design Capital 2012 project will generate. The World Design Capital Year calls for activities that will be noted widely, and the opening of Alvar Aalto’s magnificent building and the design exhibition in the city centre would be of importance.”

Aila Kolehmainen

Alvar Aalto Houses – Timeless Expressions 16 May - 1 August Néprajzi Múzeum, Budapest, Hungary 20 August - 19 September Kölcsey Convention Center exhibition hall, Debrecen, Hungary Autumn 2010 The Architecture Museum of Ljubljana AML, Ljubljana, Slovenia Alvar Aalto. Puun ulottuvuudet since 26 November 2010 Turku, Furniture manufacturer Korhonen 100th anniversary exhibition Alvar Aalto. Puun ulottuvuudet. Dimensions on Wood 2010–2011 Portugal, Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay and Mexico

Subject to changes without notice.

Alvar Aalto Foundation Tiilimäki 20, 00330 Helsinki tel. +358 (0)207 480 123 fax +358 (0)9 485 119 Alvar Aalto Academy Tiilimäki 20, 00330 Helsinki tel. +358 (0)207 480 123 fax +358 (0)9 485 119 Alvar Aalto Museum, Architectural Heritage Department Tiilimäki 20, 00330 Helsinki tel. +358 (0)207 480 123 fax +358 (0)9 485 119 Alvar Aalto Museum Alvar Aallon katu 7, PO Box 461, 40101 Jyväskylä tel. +358 (0)14 266 7113 fax +358 (0)14 619 009 Artek shop open during museum hours. Open Tuesday - Sunday 11am - 6pm July - August, Tuesday - Friday 10am - 6pm, Saturday - Sunday 11am 6pm Closed Monday Admission fee. Alvar Aalto Museum ticket sales, tel. +358 (0)14 266 7113 Muuratsalo Experimental House Melalammentie 2, 40900 Säynätsalo Open 2 June - 15 September 2010 Closed 21 June - 4 July 2010 Guided tours Monday, Wednesday and Friday 1.30pm-3.30pm Admission to area with guide only. Tour group size max. 20 persons, please book your tour in advance. Admission fee. Bookings and questions: tel. +358 (0)14 266 7113 or email: Studio Aalto Tiilimäki 20, 00330 Helsinki Guided tours Tuesday - Friday 11.30am -12.30pm Guided tours August Monday - Sunday 11.30am-12.30pm Max 20 visitors allowed at a time. Please book your group visitation in advance. Admission fee. Bookings and questions: tel. +358 (0)9 481 350 The Aalto House Riihitie 20, 00330 Helsinki The Aalto House is open in December January by request only. Winter time (1 October - 30 November and 1 February - 30 April)Tuesday - Sunday 1pm - 5pm Summer time (1 May - 30 September) Tuesday - Sunday 1pm - 6pm, August: Monday - Sunday 1pm - 6pm Admission and guided tours every hour. Max 20 visitors allowed at a time. Please book your group visitation in advance. Admission fee. Bookings and questions: tel. +358 (0)9 481 350

Exceptions in opening hours can be found: 2010

Publisher Alvar Aalto Foundation Editor Aila Kolehmainen Graphic design Teppo Järvinen Katja Enarvi Translations Mustion Merkitys Jüri Kokkonen

Rautatalo, AAM

ccording to a recent study by the Alvar Aalto Foundation, the Rautatalo building (address Keskuskatu 3, Helsinki) is the most suitable place both spatially and in terms of location for the Alvar Aalto Design Centre (AAMU), which is due to open in 2012. The Foundation has surveyed the situation with the owners of the building (the Alfred Kordelin Foundation, the Finnish Cultural Foundation, the Jenny and Antti Wihuri Foundation and the Alko Pensions Fund) and its main tenant, the Nordea Private Bank. A preliminary plan for the use of space has been prepared, and the overall funding of the project is currently being outlined. According to present plans, the bank will continue its operations in the building, while the Alvar Aalto Design Centre will occupy the second floor with premises of 400 square metres. The aim of the design centre is to present Aalto’s work as a designer. The exhibition will include lesser-known exclusive design products by Aalto. The Rautatalo premises could also serve other exhibitions, such as displays of work by young designers. This would be a fitting addition, especially in view of continuous enquiries from abroad concerning young designers carrying on the legacy of Aalto.

Ligth Fittings index.htm

Contact information, opening hours

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ISSN 1459-5745 2010 2010  

Newsletter is published by Alvar Aalto Foundation, Museum and Academy once a year. It informs customers of the contemporary ex...