The Architectural Works of Alvar Aalto - a Human Dimension to the Modern Movement
Permanent Delegation of Finland to UNESCO
Provinces of Central Finland, Kymenlaakso, Satakunta, South Karelia, South Ostrobothnia, Southwest Finland and Uusimaa
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Property names are listed in the language in which they have been submitted by the State Party
Paimio Sanatorium 60° 27' 54,004" 22° 44' 6,990"
Aalto House 60° 11' 48,359" 24° 52' 35,123"
Sunila Pulp Mill Housing Area 60° 29' 46,370" 26° 57' 27,047"
Villa Mairea 61° 35' 50,673" 21° 52' 28,496"
Säynätsalo Town Hall 62° 8' 24,738" 25° 46' 8,788"
Experimental House, Muuratsalo 62° 6' 53,273" 25° 44' 42,008"
Studio Aalto 60° 11' 53,294" 24° 52' 10,253"
Church of Three Crosses, Vuoksenniska 61° 14' 12,123" 28° 51' 22,012"
House of Culture 60° 11' 17,754" 24° 56' 39,034"
University of Jyväskylä, Aalto Campus 62° 14' 9,666" 25° 43' 48,640"
Social Insurance Institution Main Office 60° 11' 14,907" 24° 55' 1,595"
Seinäjoki Civic Centre 62° 47' 10,993" 22° 50' 31,833"
Finlandia Hall 60° 10' 33,934" 24° 56' 0,213"
The components of the series settle in the industrialised and mechanised society of the modern era and in the ideas of the global Modern Movement responding to its challenges. Architect Alvar Aalto’s (1898 - 1976) works are considered masterpieces of the architectural heritage of this movement. The architectural features and special expression of the works have been created in close interaction and dialogue with the international Modern Movement, and their impact continues in modern contemporary architecture. The works include iconic modernistic buildings, sites and areas that have influenced the formation and development of Modern Movement and modernism in Finland, in the Nordic countries and globally. The works are masterful in taking people’s feelings and senses into account and in expressing these by means of architecture, and the works have become an integral part of international modernism.
In particular, the sites exhibit architectural forms, asymmetry and the manifestation of contrasts, the concept of free space, and continuities between the building, its surroundings and its history. These characteristics appear in the components as exceptionally diverse and creative solutions. While the sites clearly highlight modernism's key characteristics and philosophy, they take the ideas of modernism further beyond the works of the contemporary architects. When discussing the key themes of modernism, such as lighting, the needs of the modern individual, experimental construction, standardisation and free form, the core of the architecture is human behaviour, experience and the idea of a human being as a social and physiological actor as well as a psychological actor who has feelings.
In the same way as single buildings have responded to the individual’s needs, the components of the series have generated solutions to the needs of society and communities while supporting their values and the works have served more extensively the resolution of problems related to the well-being of modern era communities and society. They are based not only on meeting material needs, but also on recognising intellectual values. These needs are reflected in architecture as holistic solutions and as a new understanding of monumentality. These characteristics have also deepened and enriched the modernistic spatial planning. They are crystallized in public administration and cultural buildings and university entities included in the series, where alongside visual and symbolic highlights, there is also always a balanced human scale environment. They are everyday environments, but exceptionally sensitive places, and at the same time, strong symbols of social life and places that bring citizens together. In the architecture, this is manifested in many ways; for example, how the distinct nature of parts of an individual building, or of a building group, settle together as analogous or contrasting elements. It is also manifested in how each building sets in its surroundings and landscape in an unusually subtle way and finally, in the manner in which visitors are subtly led in the premises while a variety of experiential highlights, even surprises and conflicts, are offered – and the underlying societal goals are present.
The series also illustrates experiments in the design language and construction in a versatile manner and over a long period of time. The experiments focus on materials - both industrial and natural materials - and architectural spaces, forms and sequences of spaces. The results of the experiments are visible in special architectural typologies and building parts introduced by Aalto. However, while satisfying a wide range of human needs and aiming for long lasting experiments, each work is an architectural entity - " architecture of the senses" - and all the works, despite their complex solutions and countless details, are complete and harmonious works, often described as entities, where the sum is more than one part.
Due to the multifaceted design method, the connection between buildings and nature at these sites is particularly multidimensional. The buildings have been planted in a manner characteristic of their place and terrain and often around a central courtyard with a landscape theme. However, the link between nature and the buildings consists of more than just views or setting or associations with the free form. Nature is close to and at the core of the building groups guaranteeing that the buildings and their surroundings are inextricably in dialogue with one another and organic growth and variation is an integral part of architecture. Even at urban sites, links to nature are evident as an identifiable dialogue between architecture and its landscape, topography, setting and natural phenomena. The themes of vitalistic thought thinkers of the early 20th century, the value of life and its significance in an environment that promotes human well-being are behind the deviation from the common mechanistic thinking of functionalism.
The series contains 13 components with individual works and locations. The Paimio Sanatorium (1928-1933), which became an early emblematic example of Functionalism, is one of the movement’s international signature buildings, where interior design, facilities, innovative solutions, details and hospital area are the result of understanding how patients feel. The forest environment as a whole, from plants to the microclimate and three-dimensional spaces, plays a key role in the area entity and architecture of sanatorium. The Aalto House, the home of the architect (1935-1936) stands out from the austere line of Functionalism and its rationalistic criteria as the subject of an industrial material suitability experiment and as a series of spaces for housing and office functions, some of them extending into the garden. Villa Mairea (1938-1939) is a synthesis of many international and Finnish influences and of modern family housing facilities as well as of a utopian lifestyle. A composition in free rhythm, landscape, topography and places of nature are present at Villa Mairea in exceptionally many forms and levels. At Muuratsalo Experimental House (1952-1953), material and space experiments combine the dialogue of the properties and meanings of the natural landscape, for example, with long framed views from the yard to the lake.
At Studio Aalto (1954-1963), material and structural experiments combined many themes: those of classicism and of the natural elements on the site with the series of spaces like for ex. those formed around the solutions to accommodate the needs of design work.
Topics and forms resulting from the behaviour and human experience of the individual as well as the citizen's role in the community and society can be perceived in the large public sites as part of reconstruction after the Second World War. Säynätsalo Town Hall (1949-1952) serves as an administrative centre where hierarchical spaces with their transitions and views, traditional and conventional materials and a place in the village centre form a monumental entity in which all the buildings’ facilities from small details to the forest landscape of main street serve municipal residents so that they feel welcome. The topics of nature focus on the yard between the buildings, as an elevated landscape. The premises of the Social Insurance Institution’s Main Offices (1953-1957) form their own urban network, where the needs of the individual, both the client and the employee, and of the hierarchy meet. In the House of Culture (1952-1958), the sequence of spaces and sculptural building volumes for the audience and user community are distinctively contrasting, and the small yard area is a miniature of natural elements in an urban environment. The modifiable spaces at the Church of Three Crosses (1955-1958) form a series of sculptural spaces, where connections to nature are immediate and strong and where there are an endless number of alternative places for encounters between the community and the individual. In Finlandia Hall (Helsinki City Centre Plan 1958-1973, Finlandia Hall 1971 and 1975), the materials and sequences of spaces ), as well as the relationship with the park and urban environment, have symbolic meanings for Finnish and international communities, in addition to the above-mentioned architectural features.
Sites implemented in a broader social context bring the forms of architecture, typologies and nature connections up to the level of identity though their place oriented architecture and by giving a sense of belonging. The individual buildings in the Sunila Pulp Mill Housing Area (1936-1954) and their direct nature connections support the social balance of the area and the area as an entity. The numerous meeting places in the University of Jyväskylä Aalto Campus (1951-1971) form a modern agora, where built and planted parts and areas form exceptionally rich networks of outdoor and indoor spaces and at the same time connect the campus area to both, the city and the pine and ridge landscape. The Seinäjoki Administrative and Cultural Centre (1951-1968) and its buildings form on the flat terrain of Ostrobothnia a monumental and yet home-like place for meeting, an emblem and a landscape, where the raised market square and the Lakeuden Risti belfry as a landmark have their own roles.
While each of the components of the series presents, in its own special way, the diversity of the forms of modernistic architecture and the key ideas behind these, the series as a whole showcases the role of Aalto’s architecture in modernism and its development.
Alvar Aalto’s works are also situated in other countries. Some of them, such as the Vyborg Library (1927-1935), the Baker House (1946-1949) and the Wolfsburg Cultural Centre (1958-1962), could present the aforementioned characteristics, supplementing the components of the series.
Justification of Outstanding Universal Value
The 13 components of the series belong to the modern, industrialised and mechanised society and the ideas of the Modern Movement responding to its challenges globally. The architectural features and special expressions of the works have been created in close interaction and dialogue with the international Modern Movement and their impact continues in modern contemporary architecture.
In the same way as single buildings have responded to the needs of an individual, the sites have generated solutions to the needs of society and communities while supporting their values and efforts for well-being. The series also illustrates experiments in the design language and in construction in a versatile manner and over a long period of time. The experiments focus on materials - both industrial and natural materials - and architectural spaces, shapes and sequences of spaces.
While each of the components presents, in its own special way, the diversity of the forms and solutions of Modern Movement architecture and the key ideas behind these, the series showcases the role of Aalto’s architecture in modernism and its development.
The series is composed of components that are exceptionally well preserved and intact. Their authenticity consists of technical authenticity (details, structures and materials), authenticity of forms, continuity of use and functions, and authentic characteristics of modernistic thinking.
Criterion (ii): The architectural features and special expressions of the series have been created in close interaction with the international Modern Movement, and they continue to have an impact in modern contemporary architecture. The work includes iconic modernistic buildings, places and sites that have influenced the formation and development of modernism.
The attributes include the modernistic architecture of the sites, including buildings, yards immediate surroundings and links to the surrounding nature.
Statements of authenticity and/or integrity
The series is made up of components that are exceptionally well preserved and intact. Their authenticity consists of technical authenticity (details, structures and materials), authenticity of forms, continuity of use and functions, and characteristics of modernistic ideas that remain authentic.
The components have kept their integrity to their settings. Sites located in the free unbuilt environment and which created a new element in the surrounding, have maintained their relationship with the environment. Many of the urban sites are rather closed off and independent. Changes in the urban environment have not had a detrimental effect on the properties at the sites. The works of the series continue to shed light on how architectural methods were used by Aalto in taking human behaviour and experiences into account.Paimio Sanatorium
The entity is highly authentic in terms of its architecture. Changes have been made to the buildings, which were originally a tuberculosis sanatorium. All key changes were based on designs by Aalto and his office, the largest ones being the operating room wing (1958) and glazing of sun balconies (1964). The building was fully renovated for other hospital use in the 1970s and the level of material authenticity decreased in some of its indoor areas. The most important sequences of spaces and part of the technical equipment have been preserved. A patient room is maintained in its original design. The original and very early furnishings have withstood the test of time very well.
Although some of the secondary buildings are currently unused, their genuine structures are still in place. The original greenhouses, mortuary cellar and water purification structures have fallen into disrepair, but are still in place.
The area comprises all the original parts of the sanatorium. The relationship between the area and the surrounding forest nature and landscape is well preserved.
The building has remained in line with the ideas of the 1930s and in the appearance of the era. Very minor changes have been made in the building while it was a residence. All the spatial sequences have been preserved, and the most important of these leads from the entrance through the main interior to the garden, to which also the office wing's own special space unit entity with its many different levels is connected. The architecture is complemented by authentic furnishings.
Although the surrounding environment has been built up over the decades with the development of the suburban area, the relationship between the house and its environment has not changed. The main views from the house to the sports field are still open.
Sunila Pulp Mill Housing Area
The housing area has been preserved well in terms of town planning, original ideas and their implementation - the relationship between landscape/nature and buildings - even though a couple of complementary buildings belonging to the original and early building stock have been dismantled. The residential buildings are preserved. Stairways and building entrances with their surroundings have remained intact. Special architectural interiors have also remained intact in the director's residential building. Interior design changes have been made in the apartments at different times, yet the structures and forms of the buildings and nature connections of the spaces have remained very well intact.
The factory area forms an essential part with regard to understanding the whole, and its nature includes a different scale from the housing area, which is considerably larger than this, and is more closed off as is common for industrial activities. This is strongly present on the site.
Villa Mairea has remained completely authentic and integral in terms of its spaces, structures, materials, views and ideas. The garden and the surrounding pine forest are carefully maintained. In terms of understanding the building, an essential point is the open view in different directions from the garden to the forest and the winding route of arrival.
The building is linked to a historical industrial ironwork area.
The building’s appearance and central indoor areas, ideas, structures, details and materials have well withstood the test of time. Its authenticity is complemented by the original furniture retained in its most valuable rooms. Changes related to the activities carried out in the residences, offices and library have been made by applying the principles of the original architecture and entity. The building's space series, which begins from the main outdoor steps, and continues through an important natural connection, the atrium, to the indoors, is authentic. The immediate vicinity of the building has changed moderately over the decades. A group of pine trees, which is one of the site’s few natural elements, still exists.
Experimental House, Muuratsalo
The buildings’ spaces, structures, materials and connections to the environment are conserved unusually well as they were in the design and construction.
The buildings are surrounded by a large lot that forms an integrated whole with forests that have been protected with regulations. The patio with its long narrow lake view is a central point of the summer house.
The original nature of the building's architecture, space design and furniture has been well preserved. The authenticity of the building is versatile: One part is the continued use - the Alvar Aalto Foundation stayed in the building after the original architectural office closed. Other prerequisites of authenticity are also met, particularly well with regard to material and structural experiments.
The relationship between the building and the suburban environment has been maintained. The building, courtyard and lot are well preserved. The entity is closed-off in nature, and there have been no views of the surroundings. However, an abundance of natural light, which is secured in the suburban environment, is essential.
Church of Three Crosses, Vuoksenniska
The church building has been preserved extremely well with regard to its central architectural sequences, shapes, structures, materials and connections to its environment, including its most important furnishings.
The essential features of the surroundings are the pine forest next to the church, due to the views from the main arrival and the views from the church halls, as well as the open grass field at the rear of the church. In the landscape, the clock tower has retained its own significance among the industrial community's chimneys and large structures. The Imatra general town plan, in which the church was planned, remained largely unimplemented.
The building’s status as a special landmark, its exceptional character and role in the streetscape are well preserved. Similarly, the courtyard delineated by the canopy is preserved as an independent part of the environment without dominating views to the surrounding.
The main indoor spaces and spatial sequences are well preserved: The lobbies, concert hall, restaurant and the largest lecture halls, as well as the stairway forming the core of the office unit, as well as its central corridors and room distribution. Innovative structures and materials have stood the test of time. Most of the designed fixed furnishings and details are preserved.
The campus is preserved as a layered entity, which has later been supplemented by building at its edges. The core of the plan is the sports field, which is delineated by key buildings which are well preserved and in use. The entirety of the outdoor area, and its paths and their structures, stairways and amphitheatre are preserved. The area’s purpose as a place for spiritual growth is kept.
The most important indoor spaces, such as lobbies, halls and architectural sequences leading through the buildings, and their connections to outdoor spaces, for example in terms of views and natural light, have been preserved. The landscape that opens from the main building and the restaurant building towards the forest and Lake Jyväsjärvi is essential for the architectural meanings and nature connections of the whole. The material authenticity of the building has been preserved in repairs. Considerable quantities of original and early loose and fixed furniture have also been preserved.
The Social Insurance Institution’s Main Office’s links to its surrounding environment are unchanged. The building’s raised courtyard is part of a wider park axis.
The building is well preserved for the most part. The key spaces and their network (the top floor’s refined spaces, the dining hall and library, the ground floor’s interior street and lobbies) have retained their architectural integrity with furnishing and lightings due to only moderate changes made during the continued use. The customer service space has been transformed into an assembly space and its furniture has been removed.
The most important views in the block have remained intact and the iconic axis which opens from the front of the theatre and local government building has been preserved exceptionally well. The entity includes numerous buildings from different times all of which have well-preserved indoor spaces.
Over the decades, the city has grown around the Aalto Centre. Despite changes, the whole has retained its status in the cityscape, for example with a park area, that opens from the main door of the city hall and reaches the church block. The church tower has remained a prominent landmark in the town. The most important views and traffic directions that link the Aalto Centre to the other key functions of the town have been kept.
The Finlandia Hall building is mainly integrated. Key indoor spaces include lobbies, stairways, foyers and the largest halls and routes between these. The key loose and fixed furniture and surface materials have also been preserved in these spaces in a manner corresponding to their original. Many surface materials, such as the marble on the facade and indoor wool carpets, have been replaced with the principle of matching materials.
Finlandia Hall’s links to its surroundings are preserved: The park area in front of the main doors, built with walls and terraces, makes Finlandia Hall part of one the busiest streets in the city, with the opposite historic building of the National Museum and the surrounding urban area. The Congress wing is associated with an earlier estate park, and the northern side is a park area. Major changes to the immediate surroundings have included the conversion of a previous railway yard into parks and the construction of office building blocks along the track.
The courtyard of the Finlandia Hall has changed in terms of car and drop off traffic, as the previous car turning point have been transformed into indoors spaces and the front parking areas into pedestrian routes. The view of Töölönlahti Bay and the long views opening into the park are key for understanding the building and its location and both views are preserved. Its symbolic value is kept, even though train travellers can now only see flashes of Finlandia Hall from their windows instead of the panoramic view they had in the 1970s.
Comparison with other similar properties
Many series in the World Heritage List contain Modern Movement architecture, which was a response to the architectural trends and ideas of the 19th century. These include for example Antonio Gaudi’s works. The modernistic response to architectural principles over a broader time line is of key importance in the proposed series. The series that present the pioneering architecture of modernism and its underlying phenomena include, in particular, the work of Le Corbusier and Frank Lloyd Wright as well as Bauhaus and its Sites. The proposed series of Aalto’s Works will complement the key themes and architecture of modernism on the World Heritage List.
Some of the components in the proposed series present modern buildings designed for the same social needs and uses (e.g. university, concert hall) as sites on the list (UNAM, University of Caracas), or the special landscape relationship of buildings during the era (Skogskyrkogården), specific building types and innovations (Van Nelle Factory, Faguswerke, etc.), or rare expression (e.g. Rietveld House, Luis Barragan house and studio). The components included in the series deal with the same themes. However, their architecture is seen as exceptionally multidimensional and their solutions exceptionally multi-layered in terms of integrating into the landscape and place as well as responding to the needs of society and modern individuals of the 20th century.
Some components are comparable to those listed as important modern urban planning sites, such as Brazil, Ivrea, Asmara, Pampulha, Le Havre, and residential areas such as the White City in Tel Aviv and Berlin's early 20th century residential areas. A preliminary comparison demonstrates that the corresponding components of the proposed series have their place in modernistic urbanism and that the series, with its specific characteristics, would complement the series on the List and, at the same time, illustrate modern architecture and design is on the World Heritage List.
Architectural sites that are not yet on the World Heritage List or on tentative lists are located in particular in the Nordic countries, Europe and North America, but also globally. Nordic points of reference include the works of Gunnar Asplund (1885-1940), Sigurd Lewerentz (1885-1975), Sven Markelius (1889-1972), Arne Korsmo (1900-1968) and Arne Jacobsen (1902-1971). Finnish points of reference to modernists’ works include the architecture of Eliel Saarinen (1873-1950) and Erik Bryggman (1891-1955). European reference points can be found in the architecture of Hans Scharoun (1893-1972) and Hugo Häring (1882-1958). Of Aalto’s successors, J. Utzon (1918-2008) is represented on the list at the Sydney Opera House. Based on architectural literature, the proposed series and
components must also be compared to the architecture of Louis I. Kahn (1901-1974) and Mies van der Rohe (1886-1969). The proposed series defends its place among the 20th century buildings and sites that often served through architecture the well-being of the society and of the individual.