Collections and research
The Alvar Aalto Foundation has published its first set of architectural drawings and photographs on the search service Finna. The material compiled by the Foundation is about Alvar Aalto and world heritage. The subject is a topical one, since the national intention to nominate Aalto serial property to the World Heritage List was approved in 2021, and the preparation of the nomination dossier began under the leadership of the Finnish Heritage Agency in 2022. The dossier will be submitted to UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee at the beginning of 2025, and a decision is expected in the summer of 2026.
The Alvar Aalto and world heritage package consists of 117 architectural drawings and 103 photographs, including the 13 buildings or districts in the proposal. The sites are: Studio Aalto; The Aalto House; Finlandia Hall; Social Insurance Institution Main Office; House of Culture; University of Jyväskylä, Aalto Campus; Experimental House, Muuratsalo; Paimio Sanatorium; Seinäjoki Civic Centre; Sunila Pulp Mill Housing Area; Säynätsalo Town Hall; Villa Mairea; and the Church of the Three Crosses, Vuoksenniska. The edifices are in various parts of Finland and were built during 1935-1987.
“The material just published includes both sketch drawings made with a delicate touch and more detailed, finished architectural drawings,” says the Alvar Aalto Foundation’s Chief Curator Timo Riekko. “The included photographs are of building façades and interiors, and represent the work of different photographers in the Foundation’s older collection of black-and-white archive photographs. From these pictures we can read not only a historical impression of the time, but also indications of how the environment has played a major role in every building,” he continues.
The buildings proposed to be World Heritage Sites form a coherent array of the modern architecture designed by Alvar Aalto’s architect’s office and also open a window onto the construction of the Finnish welfare state and the development of its architecture from the 1930s to the 1980s. Aalto’s architecture was characterized by a human-centred, practical approach, which can be seen in numerous ways in these sites. “With this World Heritage bid we are seeking to raise the profile and accessibility of Alvar Aalto’s architectural heritage, and thus to promote the preservation of his life’s work. Dealing with a proposal is a lengthy process and takes several years. The topicality of the subject means that now is also a good moment to publish related material on Finna for diverse publics to see,” Alvar Aalto Foundation’s CEO Tommi Lindh explains the background to this move.
The Alvar Aalto Foundation’s drawing and photograph archives are unique both nationally and internationally. They span the extensive, diverse life’s work of the architect Alvar Aalto, and of his architect wives, Aino Aalto and Elissa Aalto. The original drawings by Alvar Aalto’s architect’s office, some 90,000 in all, form the nucleus of the Alvar Aalto Foundation’s collections. The Foundation’s photograph collection comprises about 50,000 architecture, design and exhibition photos related to Aalto’s personal history and life’s work, from the 1920s right up to the present day.
Alvar Aalto and world heritage material on the Finna search service website.
Finna is home to millions of items of cultural and scientific material in Finland. Hundreds of Finnish organisations such as archives, libraries and museums bring their unique content to Finna.fi.
Further information about the Alvar Aalto Foundation’s drawing- and photograph collection, Alvar Aalto and world heritage and Aalto’s architectural sites on the Alvar Aalto Foundation’s website.
Alvar Aalto Foundation
Chief Curator Timo Riekko
+358 400 354 268
Communications Manager Mirkka Vidgrén
+358 40 168 5142
Photo: University of Jyväskylä 1951–1978. Drawing © Alvar Aalto Foundation.
This year marks the 125th anniversary of the birth of Alvar Aalto (1898−1976). The architects and pioneers of modern design Alvar, Aino and Elissa Aalto made an exceptionally rich and varied career for themselves in Finland and abroad. During the year, the Alvar Aalto Foundation – along with its partners in collaboration – will be putting the spotlight on the story of Alvar Aalto’s architect’s office (1923−1994) and on the ideas that influenced its work; ideas that are still relevant today.