Friday, August 5, 2011

Aalto Summer Trip

As the title of this post already let you assume today I am telling you about a longer "Aalto-trip" I did this week. Outbounding from Jyväskylä on Tuesday morning I visited three major "Aalto-cities" here in Finland within two days, namely Seinäjoki, Alajärvi and Rovaniemi.
My train to Seinäjoki
I left from Jyväskylä with the first direct train to Seinäjoki at 7.33 am and after a three hours ride I arrived in Seinäjoki where the tower of Alvar Aalto's "Cross of the Plains Church" was already greeting me. After the arrival at 10.25 am I had about an hour to visit Seinäjoki and I decided to focus on the Administrative and Culture Centre also called the Aalto Center an ensemble of six buildings designed by Alvar Aalto and builded between 1951 and 1988. Easily to find as I could follow the church tower I saw during my arrival after a ten minutes walk from the station I arrived at the Aalto Center and thus I had seen many pictures before I was really impressed by the buildings. I took a few pictures from the ensemble before I had to rush back to the station catching my bus to Alajärvi which left at 11.30 am.

My bus to Alajärvi
After a very brief first visit of the Aalto-Center in Seinäjoki I had to be back at the station at 11.30 am as my bus left for Alajärvi a 70 kilometre ride which took a bit more than an hour. Going for the first time to Alajärvi I got off the bus at the wrong stop. Luckily a very nice stranger who had also travelled on the same bus and who turned out to be living all his life in Alajärvi guided me to the Aalto-Centre in Alajärvi which was about 3 kilometres away from the bus stop. He told me a lot about Aalto and the meaning this buildings have for Alajärvi. Born about 30 kilometre southwest from Alajärvi in Kuortane Alvar Aalto moved at the age of 5 years together with his family to Alajärvi where he went to school Alajärvi always had a special meaning for Aalto beeing his "home town". Therefore it is not surprising that he designed altogether 7 buildings for this very town.

Site No. 18: Town Hall Alajärvi (1966-69)

Located in Alvar Aalto Street 1 is the town hall of Alajärvi. The design of the town hall was inspired by the Alajärvi church which is located behind the building. The Alajävri town hall has the typical design Aalto used when producing public buildings as we will see also in the following examples given during this very trip.

Site No. 19: Heatlh Building Alajärvi (1966-70)

On the oppsite side of the town hall in Alvar Aalto Street 2 is the public health building located which was built during the same time as the town hall.Unfortunatelly the building was only viewable from the outside.

Site No. 20: Parish Centre Alajärvi (1966-70)

Also built in the same time as the town hall and the health building and located in Alvar Aalto Street 3 is the Parish centre of Alajärvi. Hereby the same strong language of form which starts from the town hall continues unbroken in the parish centre building. Also here the inspiration came from the church located just behind the parish centre. Unfortunatelly the building was accessable.

Site No. 21: Libary Alajärvi (1990-91)

Build after Aalto's death but according to his original plans the libary of Alajärvi was completed in 1991. It is located right behind the town hall and the parish centre in Kirkotie 7.

Site No. 22: Youth Association Building Alajärvi (1919)
The youth association building in Alajärvi was the first building completly designed by Alvar Aalto while he was still studing architechture in Helsinki. The building itself is well-balanced both in respect of the details as well as a whole. All the elements of the building tell of a language of form which gives rise to high expectations with regards to Aalto's future work. The building is located in Sairaalantie 9 just on the opposite side of the town hall and health building. The building was accessable but due to the limited time I could not enter the building but had to continue my journey.

Site No. 23: Former Municipal Hospital Alajärvi (1924-28)

The former municipal hospital of Alajärvi located in Lääkärintie 1 not far from Alajärvi's Aalto-Centre was designed by Aalto in the mid-1920s. Nowadays the building is used as a old people's home. The building was only viewable from the outside.It contains a lot of elements also seen at the Youth Association Building presented above. 

Site No. 24: Villa Väinölä Alajärvi (1926)

Located in Väinöntie just behind the Health Building, Alvar Aalto designed this Villa 1926 for his brother. Once again it showes the typical elements of Aaltos early works. The outbuilding viewable on the picture below was added later in the 1930s. The building was only viewable from outside but it seemed some construction and renovation work was going on inside during my visit.

My "bus" back to Seinäjoki
After visiting 7 Alvar Aalto buildings in less than an hour it was already time for me to get back to the bus stop which was about 3-4 kilometres away from the city centre of Alajärvi. After a short lunch at the gasstation I took the local bus back to Seinäjoki which took about one and a half hours. At 4.05 pm I was back in Seinäjoki and had now finally time to get a closer look at the different buildings of the Aalto-Centre in Seinäjoki.

Site No. 25: Defence Corps Building and Museum (1924-26)

Before returning to the Aalto-Centre I briefly visited the only Aalto building in Seinäjoki not located at the Aalto-Centre the Defence Corps Building and Museum. Located in the city centre of Seinäjoki in Kauppakatu 17 this building is another example of Aalto's early work dating back to the mid-1920s. Nowadays hosting the Civil Guard and Lotta Svärd Museum the building is accessable every day with exception of Mondays and Tuesdays. As I visited Seinäjoki on a Tuesday the museum was closed and I could not access the building.

Site No. 26: Town Hall Seinäjoki (1958-60)
The heart of the Administrative and Culture Centre or also Aalto-Centre is the the town hall erected in the late 1950s. The facades of the town hall are dominated by the columned hall where the main entrance is loacted and the walls which are covered with a dark blue porcelain finish. During the normal opening hours the entrance lobby can be accessed. Pictures from the entrance lobby can be found below.

Site No. 27: Seinäjoki Theatre (1961-87)

Designed by Alvar Aalto in the early 1960s the Seinäjoki Theatre was erected after Aalto's death in 1987. The theatre serves on a daily base as such, the lobby is open during ticket sales hours, the rest of the building is only accessable during the shows. 

Site No. 28: Libary Seinäjoki (1960-65)

As well part of the Administartive and Cultural Centre of Seinäjoki is the Libary designed by Aalto in the early 1960s. The white building provides a striking contrast to the blue-and-white town hall. The fan-shaped form of the building creates a beautiful, spacious view to visitor entering the building and is at the same time also a big aid for the staff working in the libary. 

Site No. 29: Government Offices Seinäjoki (1964-68)

Right behind the town hall the government offices can be found which was designed by Aalto in the early 1960s. The massive bulk of the building forms a clear-cut finish to the western wing of the administrative and cultural centre. The office building is accessable during the normal office hours.

Site No. 30: The Cross of the Plains Church and Parish Centre Seinäjoki (1951-60)

As faszinating as the administrative buildings, the libary and the theatre might be the most time I spend in the church of the cross of the plains. Thus with its simplyness it can not be compared with any church e.g. from the middle age as found for example in Italy still the typical Aalto elements of monumentalism and his approach to build a "total work of art" speak a clear language in this building. The church is visible afar and dominates the city scene. It is a cathedral church which seats up to 1500 people. The nave which narrows towards the altar and the floor that slopes down towards the altar create an impressive sight for a person entering the church. The inner courtyard formed by the church itself and the parish centre functions as an open-air church. The tower which can be climbed by elevator is 65 metre high. The church is during the summer open daily from 10 am to 8 pm. 

With the help of the very friendly and nice guide I also got the chance to climbe up the tower of the church which offered a magnificance view over the Aalto-Centre and the rest of Seinäjoki. The guide also showed me the littel chapel as well as the organ. At this point I would like to thank the very nice guide for his assistance and all the interesting details he told me about the church and Seinäjoki as well. Therefore I would like to dedicate the following pictures to him.

After the church of the cross of the plains was closed at 8 pm I still had four hours to wait for my night train to Rovaniemi. After a nice dinner and a late-show in the local cinema I went finally at 11 pm for a third and last visit to the Aalto-Centre before returning to the station.

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