Mainbuilding of the University of Jyväskylä

Page 1












AN OUTSTANDING EXAMPLE OF MODERN ARCHITECTURE Capitolium, designed by Alvar Aalto, was built on the Seminaarinmäki campus in 1955. The building, located on the hilltop alongside spectacular pine trees, is an outstanding example of modern architecture and one of the most significant works of Aalto’s red brick period. Capitolium (Building C) was built as the main building of the Jyväskylä College of Education and was first used for training teachers for primary and secondary schools. The key influences for Aalto’s campus design were classical antiquity and the American campus tradition. The materials of the main building include red brick, wood and glass, as well as marble, bronze and leather to emphasise the building’s status. The building totals 9,100 square metres and consists of three parts: an administrative wing, a Festival Hall and café section, and the Aalto Library, all combined with a passage hall. The Main Building provides facilities for teaching and special events as well as office space for the University’s management and University Services. The building also hosts Café Belvedere.

TRADITIONAL FACILITIES FOR MODERN USE Between 2013 and 2017, the building was thoroughly renovated to eliminate indoor air problems and develop it as a new kind of learning environment. Because the building is in the highest possible protection class, the original structures, surfaces and furnishing were preserved carefully in the renovation. The planning of the renovation was made in close cooperation with the Alvar Aalto Foundation and the National Board of Antiquities. The air conditioning and other technical systems of the festival hall were renewed, and the roofs and floors were renovated and windows repaired. One challenge in the renovation was to find materials similar to the original ones. After the renovation, the building is now home to the Rector’s Office, the Division of the Director of Administration, University Communications, the Division of Strategic Planning and Development, and the Registry Office. As part of the renovation, the furniture designed by Alvar and Aino Aalto, Maija Heikinheimo and Ilmari Tapiovaara was restored and a portion of them returned to their original places. The building’s lighting is by Artek, Idman and Orno.



Rector Aarni Penttilä started a tradition in the entrance hall: new students, dressed in their finest clothes, shook hands with the Rector, who stood on the festival hall stairs. The white marble of the lobby floor highlights the status of the Main Building. As part of the renovation, the original Yugoslavian marble has been replaced with a similar kind from Portugal. Aalto designed the large plate-glass windows so they would provide a view to the nature of Central Finland. The pillars of the lobby are covered with glazed baton-shaped tiles – an element Aalto used in many of his other buildings. Café Belvedere, set slightly below ground

level, became a lively meeting place right after the building was completed. Over the years, the cafÊ partly expanded to the higher lobby level. The impressive doors of the festival hall are covered with black rep fabric and decorated with brass rings. Through the doors, you enter the large assembly hall (aka Festival Hall), which is divided into three fan-shaped sections: the stage, the seating area and the lecture hall at the back. The intermediate wall between the festival and lecture halls can be opened to create one harmonious space lit with Aalto pendants at different heights. Over the decades, the festival hall has served as a cultural venue for all of Jyväskylä.



According to student lore, lecturers used to climb in the evening to the highest floor of the staircase and throw students’ test papers in the air. The examination grade was then determined by the number of the floor on which the paper landed. The passage hall unites the festival hall section and the administrative wing, creating an outdoor atmosphere indoors, a typical effect in Aalto’s architecture. Light enters the passage hall through six oval-shaped skylights. The marble of the stairs is the original material, well preserved in the renovation. The floor of the passage hall is made of light-coloured marble

mosaic. The red brick wall of the straight staircase dominates the space and contrasts with the white walls and handrails. According to the original design, the passage hall was the only route between the square in front of the building and Ceremony Square behind it. It has also served as a passage for people on their way to and from the city centre. The bronze relief on the back wall of the passage hall is by artist Kain Tapper. In 1959, when Aalto’s buildings were officially opened, the City of Jyväskylä promised to donate a work of art for the building. Tapper found the space so beautiful that he wanted the relief to be discreet and restrained. Horisontti (‘Horizon’) was completed in 1967.



Agriculture was a central part of teacher training until the mid-1960s. Back then, one section of the ground floor was also used as agricultural laboratories. As part of the studies, the milking of cows was simulated with rubber udders, now part of the University Museum’s collection. The ground floor is architecturally more modest than the rest of the building. The uniform rows of windows in the former laboratory facilities are part of Aalto’s composition for the northwest façade of the administrative wing. The facilities have served for the longest as chemistry

and physics laboratories. Over the years, the ground floor facilities have been used for many purposes. At the end of the 1960s, agriculture was replaced by growing scientific fields such as research in psychology and education as well as sports and health studies. When the Liikunta (Faculty of Sport and Health Sciences) building was completed, the research facilities moved there. As the focus of teaching changed, the need for large laboratories decreased and the ground floor rooms were converted into office space. However, yellowish acid-proof wall tiles in some offices are reminders of the rooms’ original purpose. In one office you can even find a fume cupboard! After the renovation, University Communications and the Division of Strategic Planning and Development moved to the ground floor of the Main Building.



A horse named Hupi served in Seminaarinmäki from 1949 and was a familiar sight in the pillar corridor of the library wing. Hupi befriended librarian Eero Penttinen, who liked to feed the horse with treats. It was said that Mr. Penttinen even stopped eating sausages because of Hupi. The Aalto Library features echoes from an earlier Aalto building, the Vyborg Library, in the lowered reading room and the skylights. The windows bring natural light to the library but offer no view outside. The size of the Aalto Library was affected by the adjacent Building F,

which was originally planned to be demolished. At the end, Aalto’s plans for the library were modified, the F building remained in its place and only part of it was torn down. Right from the beginning, the capacity of the library facilities was too small. Aalto made plans for another library on Seminaarinmäki, but Arto Sipinen was ultimately selected to design the new University Library in the mid-1970s. During the renovation, the Aalto Library was partly renewed and partly restored. This was done according to the architect’s original plan. In addition, the facility was developed to better respond to the need for a modern lounge-type space on campus.



The former teachers’ room has served as official premises and a reception room for many eminent guests. For example, President Urho Kekkonen prepared in the room for the opening festivities of the Main Building in 1959. The second floor of the administrative wing is a central space in the building, since it was designed as the Rector’s Office. The facilities included offices for the Rector, administrative collegiums and a teachers’ room for the use of lecturers and special guests. The teachers’ room has also been used as a press room.

The teachers’ room consisted of three parts: a kitchen, a lounge equipped with a small meeting table, and a meeting room with long ash tables. The lounge and the meeting room could be separated with a distinctive sliding door made of oak. In the latest renovation, a fixed wall was built in its place, but the door is still visible from the meeting room side. In the Main Building, a room’s position in the hierarchy affected its decor. A higher position was highlighted with sophisticated materials such as hardwood and Kirsti Ilvessalo’s textiles. The original meeting room of the teachers’ room now serves as the Rector’s personal office. When the room changed, the furniture designed for the former Rector’s office (C220, the image above) was moved to the new room.



Many cherish their memories of the lecture room C4. Some say that students picked their seats based on where their sweetheart was: Sitting on opposite sides let glances be exchanged across the room. The lecture room C4 is located in the middle of the administrative wing. Thanks to its large windows, the lecture room is clearly distinguishable from outside. When designing the room, Aalto was inspired by classical Greece. The room resembles a city council meeting space of the era.

The lecturer’s place in the room is highlighted by a curved wooden canopy. The terraced rows of seats form a U shape around the lecturer, making it difficult to sneak into the room unnoticed during a lecture. Typical of Aalto, the fittings and wooden details are carefully planned. The furniture is simple, and the room still has the original pendants designed by Aalto. The lecture room has red brick walls typical of the Main Building and large windows that let in plenty of natural light. The floor of the lecture room was restored with oak and pine parquet, the materials used originally. The pine parquet, nowadays a rarity, had to be made specifically for this purpose.



Clay and gypsum work was a central part of art teaching already in the days of the Jyväskylä Teacher Seminary. Lecturer Mikko Asunta, who used gypsum in his own works of art, contributed to the design of the art teaching facilities in the Main Building. The room also had a kiln for finishing works. The most interesting architectural detail of the classroom C411 is best seen from outside. Unlike the other windows of the room, one looks out towards the cafeteria building Lozzi. From outside, the window stands out from the red brick wall of the building.The Main Building

provided completely new facilities for teaching arts in teacher training. The activities moved to the Main Building from Villa Rana, which had been used for teaching drawing since 1912. The stands for clay modelling and drawing were designed for the room by the Aalto’s architecture office and are still in use. In the new facilities, various graphic arts techniques became a strong part of arts instruction. The art instruction facilities were improved during the renovation of the building that took place in the 1970s. The room was fitted with clay worktables designed by Lecturer Pertti Kalin. The tables were hand-crafted from solid wood by the University’s own woodworkers. The room serves as a teaching facility to this day.

1st floor 1

Entrance hall, cafĂŠ & festival hall


Passage hall


Ground floor


Aalto library





2nd floor 5

Rector’s office C217


3rd floor 6 6

Lecture room C4

4th floor 7 7

Clay work studio C411