Visit Finland in 2011. Helsinki. Aalto design.

Visit the iconic buildings of Alvar Aalto in 2012, Helsinki’s year as World Design CapitalFew figures have been as instrumental to Finland’s design heritage as Alvar Aalto. What better time to get to know the works of the famed architect and designer than in 2012, when Helsinki reigns as World Design Capital?Alvar Aalto (1898-1976) is referred to as the father of modern Scandinavian design. He has become immortalized by his furniture and glassware creations, several of which remain in production and take pride of place in Finnish households to the present day. This same enduring quality is shown by many of Aalto’s architectural works, which continue to hold the esteem of both design experts and laypeople throughout the globe. Come to Helsinki in its year as World Design Capital in 2012 and see some of Aalto’s key architectural masterpieces for yourself. Right on the capital city’s harbor front is Aalto’s Enso-Gutzeit Headquarters (1962), a box-shaped modernist office building with a white marble façade. The structure is a marked contrast to the Eastern Orthodox Uspenski Cathedral on the hillside behind it – no wonder that city dwellers have nicknamed it the Sugar Cube. While similar to more mundane office blocks at first glance, the building’s details and materials set it apart. As the building still serves as an office, it is viewable only from the outside.Just a minute’s stroll away on the Esplanade is the Academic Bookstore (1969), whose dark copper façade leads into a warm and bright atrium in white marble lit from above by geometric skylights. Café Aalto on the far balcony is a welcoming place to stop for a snack. The bookstore is open during regular store hours.Finlandia Hall, not far from the Central Railway Station, is one of the city’s best-known landmarks. With a marble-clad exterior and a copper roof, the building is composed of cubic forms and a tower, making up a whole that is both functional and pleasing to the eye. The concert hall was completed in 1971 and its congress wing in 1975. Over the years, some design flaws emerged which were resolved in a restoration project that began in 1998. Nevertheless, Aalto’s experience and mastery are evident in the external structure as well as in its interiors. From furniture and lighting fixtures to moldings, panels and flooring materials, minute details were especially designed by Aalto for the building – testament to the architect’s attention to detail.Visits to Finlandia Hall are possible through guided tours, which last about one hour and cost € 10.50 ($14) for adults and € 8.50 ($11) for senior citizens, students and children. The latest information on tours can be found at http://www.finlandiatalo.fi/en/architecture/guided-tours/. You can also contact the service point, open from Monday to Friday, 7.30 am to 5pm, by phone at +358 (0)9 40241 or by email at servicepoint@finlandiatalo.fi. An earlier project, the Riihitie House (1936) is a more intimate peek into Aalto’s life. Built by young architects, Alvar and his wife Aino Aalto, the family home in Munkkiniemi, a suburb of Helsinki also housed the offices of Alvar Aalto, Architects until 1955. The modest home demonstrates Aalto’s design principles in the use of natural light, the blurred distinction between indoor and outdoor space, the orientation of the rooms and the importance given to scale and circulation. It is possible to visit the home, which has been turned into a museum, during limited opening hours or by appointment. Riihitie 20 can be reached in about 25 minutes by tram from the city center. For more information, visit http://www.alvaraalto.fi/open.htm#aaltohouse, call +358 (0)9 481 350 or email riihitie@alvaraalto.fiA short walk from Riihitie is Studio Aalto, at Tiilimäki 20 in Munkkiniemi, which Aalto designed as his own workplace in 1955. Studio Aalto is where the architect held office until his death in 1976. Considered one of the best of Aalto’s 1950s buildings, the structure has a white, wall-like façade, which conceals a garden shaped like an amphitheatre in its inner courtyard. Here, the staff could sit on the steps, listen to lectures or watch projections on the white wall. Studio Aalto now houses the Alvar Aalto Foundation and the Alvar Aalto Museum of Architectural Heritage. It is open only at 11.30 am from Tuesday-Friday with the exception of August, when it is open at 11.30 amfrom Monday-Sunday. The admission fee includes a guided tour and costs € 17 ($22) or € 7 ($ 9) for students and senior citizens and € 10 ($13) per person for groups of over 10 persons. For more information and reservations email riihitie@alvaraalto.fiAalto designed the campus for the Otaniemi Technical University in Espoo, between 1949 and 1966. Located within the greater Helsinki Metropolitan Area, Aalto designed the campus’s library, shopping centre and water tower, which are built around the landmark form of the amphitheatre shaped main auditorium. In 2010, the University was renamed Aalto University in recognition of the architect’s achievements in technology, economics and art. The campus is connected to the center of Helsinki by a 15-minute bus ride. For more information, visit http://www.aalto.fi/en/for/visitor/ or call +358 (0)9 47001.There are many more of Aalto’s architectural gems dotted around Helsinki and throughout the country. For a comprehensive guide, visit http://www.alvaraalto.fi/info/guide/index.htm and download the map found on the site. To find out more about World Design Capital Helsinki 2012, visit http://www.wdc2012helsinki.fi/en.For information about travel in Finland, go to www.visitfinland.com

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