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Architect Alvar Aalto

Architect, designer and academic, Alvar Aalto was born on February 3rd 1898 in Kuortane, where his memorial relief is now located. His family moved to Alajärvi when Alvar was five years old, and from there to Jyväskylä, where he became a secondary school graduate in 1916. In 1921, Aalto earned his architect's degree from Helsinki Polyteekki, which is the former name for the Helsinki University of Technology. He founded his first architecture firm in Jyväskylä in 1923 and married architect Aino Marsio the following year. After some years in Turku, the Aalto family moved to Helsinki in 1936, where they settled into their new home which was built in Munkkiniemi. Aalto became a widower in 1949. Later he married his colleague, architect Elissa Mäkiniemi. Alvar Aalto passed away in May 1976 at the age of 78. He is interred in the Hietaniemi cemetery, in the artists' area.

Through his architecture, Alvar Aalto wanted to demonstrate that the balance between individuality and community is possible to achieve without breaking the connection between human being and nature. Besides the natural values, European cultural tradition was important in his design. In his buildings, Aalto designed every detail, right down to the level of door handles and lamps. Aalto found it significant that he would see and experience buildings as Gesamtkunstwerk.

In the beginning of the 1940s, Aalto was a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he designed a dormitory. His other famous designs abroad include the Aalto Theatre, the opera house in Essen, Germany (1959) and the Riola Parish Church (1965) in Italy.

Besides Seinäjoki, Alajärvi is closely connected to Aalto's childhood and youth, and later to Alvar and Aino's summers. Aalto designed his first building for Alajärvi already in his student years. This was the Defence Corps building, which today serves as a youth social house. The last design work of Aalto's architecture firm is the city library in Alajärvi.

Finished mainly between 1960-1968 and fully completed in 1987-1988, the Seinäjoki administrative and cultural centre is a globally unique architectural whole, attracting tourists from all over the world all year round. The Aalto Centre is a complex formed of six buildings, at the centre of which is a piazza, Kansalaistori or the Civic Square, covered with granite tiles and cobbles according to Aalto's design. In 2005, the Ministry of the Environment formalised the decision by Western Finland's Centre for the Environment, based on which the city hall, library building, theatre house, office building and the park of the Aalto Centre were listed as protected buildings.

The building for the headquarters of the defence corps in Seinäjoki, built in 1925 and representing Aalto's neoclassical era, is the only unaltered building from his early years. Besides Alajärvi and Seinäjoki, other cities with significant architecture by Aalto are Jyväskylä and Rovaniemi.

Aalto-related websites:

Alvar Aalto Foundation, Academy, Museum and Archives

Alvar Aalto's Architecture