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“As for the Finnish landscape, I have always been immersed in it. When I began to appreciate the balance and harmony it exudes, I also began to understand how we humans should treat our natural surroundings.” Alvar Aalto 1972

The Alvar Aalto Museum’s main exhibition this year, The Cultivated Landscape of Alvar Aalto, showcases Alvar Aalto’s (1898–1976) design with the emphasis on the connection between architecture and the surrounding landscape and nature. The affinity between Aalto’s production and nature is an oft-repeated theme, but analysis of buildings with regard to landscape architecture is still an under-researched topic.

The landscape was an integral aspect of architecture for Alvar Aalto. He was interested in how a building can be blended into its environment from early on. He was a master at fusing his buildings with their natural surroundings, inviting nature to become one with his architecture. The exhibition takes a comprehensive look at how various features of the landscape influenced Aalto’s design process and his special sense for the art of landscaping, mastering all kinds of projects from small-scale gardens to large-scale plans.

Living nature represented renewal for Aalto, and it was in this spirit that he studied Finnish forests, vernacular architecture, the planted slopes of the Mediterranean region, and the ruins of Antiquity. In defending the power of vegetation, he felt he was defending European humanism and its heritage. Aalto was a proponent of well-tended forests, and unwittingly paved the way for ecological thinking.

“The presence of nature in urban environments is a highly topical theme of discourse at the moment, when the environment is changing rapidly and city centres are gaining density,” says the exhibition’s curator, art historian Teija Isohauta. “More information on the importance of nature for human wellbeing is being acquired all the time. Urban green spaces are well designed, but, at the same time, nature is being driven ever further from city centres, and people have to travel ever further to experience living nature,” Isohauta says.

Alvar Aalto was well ahead of his time in advocating green corridors and biophilic design, of which his architecture offers a fine example. Aalto’s legacy in this field forms a valuable part of Finland’s national heritage, and his ideas about landscaping remain as relevant as ever today. “I hope people will wake up and start looking after their environment and allow the formation of different strata in the built landscape. Respect for history says something about caring – realizing how a building acquires significance in its own setting,” says Isohauta.

The exhibition concept was devised by Professor Emeritus Tom Simons, with texts by curator Teija Isohauta. The exhibition has been co-produced by the Museum of Finnish Architecture and the Alvar Aalto Foundation.

The additional programme for the summer exhibition introduces its themes and expands the architectural experience
From August until October, the museum will hold guided tours of the exhibition, themed tours of the Muuratsalo Experimental House, and workshops for children and adults. You can also explore the themes of the exhibition on an individual tour of the Jyväskylä University campus area.

Guided tours of the exhibition
Public guided tours at 2 pm on Thursdays, August 6, 13, 20 and 27, in English. A guided tour is included in the price of admission.

More information about the supplementary programme is available here.


Further information:
Curator Mari Murtoniemi
+358 40 355 9162

The Cultivated Landscape of Alvar Aalto
Alvar Aalto Museum Gallery 14.5–25.10.2020
Alvar Aallon katu 7, Jyväskylä
Open Tue-Sun 11-18

National Pensions Institute (1953-56), Helsinki. Photo Maija Holma Alvar Aalto Foundation.

Press release updated July 17, 2020.