- Completion 1971 & 1975
- PeriodThe rise of the welfare state
- Year of selection1993
In 1962 the City of Helsinki commissioned Alvar Aalto to design a congress and concert building on the waterfront of Töölö Bay. The building was part of Aalto’s Helsinki Centre plan, in which a string of monumental buildings would stand along the bay in a lush park setting. Aalto had envisioned this already in 1953:
“The planning of Helsinki’s city centre is in the process of coming together. In connection with this are opportunities, albeit limited, to create for Helsinki a city centre of public buildings which corresponds to its current size and to those private needs that are much more complex than they were when Helsinki last received a city centre with public buildings, the Senate Square.” (Arkkitehti 9-10/1953)
The only building to be completed in accordance with Aalto’s ideas was the so-called Finlandia Hall, but the Opera House (1993), Kiasma (1998) and Music Centre (2011) are adaptations of his planning principles. Aalto wrote about the issue of monumental building and also applied it in practice. By monumental building, he meant the city’s cultural and service buildings as well as the urban structure they articulated. Finlandia Hall can be seen as an encapsulation of these ideas that had developed over decades. The building has a special position in the cityscape, and the forms, materials, furniture, and building details together create a cohesive whole. Diverse and interlocking spatial sequences generate a total work of art – as well as an impressive natural backdrop to the functions of the multipurpose building.
Finlandia Hall has since its completion been a major venue for musical culture. Yet perhaps the building’s key significance revolves strongly around international political history. President Urho Kekkonen (1900-1986) was already involved in laying the foundation stone for the building on May 14, 1969, and in the summer of 1975 the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE), which reduced Cold War tensions, was held at the Finlandia Hall, marking the culmination of both Kekkonen’s political career and Finland’s policy of political neutrality.
Marble was for Aalto a symbolic material with associations to both Mediterranean culture and the heritage of the antiquities. In the 1960s he began to use marble also in the facades of buildings. The marble cladding in the facades of the Finlandia Hall was changed during the renovation in 1997-99. The basement on the Töölö Bay side was converted in 2011 from its original use as a parking area for conference and cafe use, which was intended to link to a canal that was to be built when upgrading the park.