The spaces in Finlandia Hall are essentially divided into three parts: the concert hall and its foyers, the chamber music hall and its foyers, and the restaurant spaces. The extension houses the conference rooms planned for congress use. The spaces were linked together, but when necessary they could be shut off as separate units.
Throughout the building, the entrance halls open up from Töölönlahti to Hesperian puisto. From these low spaces, stairs rise up to loftier and lighter foyer spaces with an overriding architectural idea of transparency. Stairs rising from low spaces to loftier, lighter spaces is a recurring theme in Aalto’s architecture.
‘Piazza’, the name given to the concert hall foyer, expresses the source of Aalto’s inspiration. The foyer is a kind of internal courtyard, an indoor piazza for the northern climate with details which refer to the culture of the Mediterranean countries, from the choice of materials to the details of the planting designed for the space. Aalto used a corresponding architectural idea in Helsinki’s Rautatalo. In Finlandia Hall, this interior space which imitates an exterior space opens through huge windows onto Töölönlahti. The pendant light fittings in the foyer were made by Valaistustyö Viljo Hirvonen and together with the creeping plants and the furniture they form a carefully considered, unified whole.
The architectural idea of the asymmetric, fan-shaped concert hall and its acoustics were studied carefully at the sketch-design stage. Wall reliefs and other details were also studied using models, and the organ front, which forms part of the concert hall, was designed to match the overall concept. The 1750-seat hall was designed for both concert and congress use, which presented its own challenges to the designers. A special ceiling structure was employed in an attempt to resolve the problems of the different acoustics called for by two completely different uses.
The smaller chamber-music hall was designed for 350 people and has a free-form rear wall to the stage. The reflective acoustic panels used in the ceiling of the chamber-music hall were designed to be adjustable. These Oregon pine acoustic reflectors are an example of the combination of an architectural idea with function. Wilton wool carpeting, a particularly soft material, was used for the aisles and stair treads in both the concert hall and the chamber-music hall to muffle the noise of people’s footsteps.
Finlandia Hall was designed comprehensively in Aalto’s office, right down to the interiors. The expression ‘complete work of art’ has been applied to many of Aalto’s buildings, but it is particularly appropriate in the case of Finlandia Hall. The people principally responsible for the design of the interiors at Finlandia Hall were the interior designer Pirkko Söderman and the architect Elissa Aalto
Much of the loose furniture, fixed furniture and light fittings was specifically designed for Finlandia Hall, but some of Aalto’s standard furniture was also used in the building, some of it in modified form. In Aalto’s buildings the interiors form an essential part of the architectural whole. This was thought to be particularly important in public buildings, with design extending right down to the smallest detail. Furniture and interior furnishings to Aalto’s designs were supplied by various companies.
The hierarchy of the spaces is apparent in the materials, for example the fabrics used in the principal spaces were specially woven. The white Carrara marble used as the façade material is also used in the interiors on the more important staircases, in the concert hall and in the concert hall and chamber-music hall foyers.
The newest part of Finlandia Hall is located on the Töölönlahti side at street level. This level was originally intended for vehicular traffic in accordance with the Central Area Plan, so that people could be driven by car right up to the appropriate entrance. In the alterations carried out in 2012, this roofed exterior space was converted into interior space to fit in with the architecture of Finlandia Hall. This new part houses public spaces including a new café.
Aalto, Alvar (1974). Finlandia-talon sijoitus, Arkkitehti, no. 6, 1974.
Hedman, Lars (1998) Lars Hedman: Alvar Aallon laatima Helsingin keskustasuunnitelma, teoksessa Lehtonen, Arja; Kämäräinen, Eija (toim) Alvar Aalto ja Helsinki. Alvar Aalto och Helsingfors. Porvoo: WSOY.
Lukkarinen, Päivi (toim.) (2000), Finlandia-talo 1962: 1967-71. 1973-75. Finlandia Concert and Congress Hall, Helsinki, Alvar Aallon arkkitehtuuria n:o 13, Jyväskylä, Helsinki: Alvar Aalto Säätiö / Alvar Aalto Foundation.
Makkonen, Leena (2009) Alvar Aallon kädenjälki Helsingissä, Helsinki: Helsingin kaupunkisuunnitteluvirasto.
Finlandia-talon rakennushistoriaselvitys (2005). Arkkitehtuuri- ja muotoilutoimisto Talli Oy.
Alvar Aalto Museum / Tomi Summanen