Architectural masterpiece

Finlandia Hall is one the most important architectural attractions in Helsinki. Alvar Aalto’s design was finished in 1971 in its beautiful central location by the Töölö Bay. The white Carrara marble facade, in contrast with black granite, makes it one of the most beautiful buildings in Helsinki. The building was inspired by the European cultural tradition, resembling Venetian palaces by the water. The building complements the surrounding park and forms an almost unbroken link with the local landscape. The futuristic look hasn’t lost its appeal over the decades.

As the name indicates, Finlandia Hall was designed to be a symbol for Finland. Aalto originally made plans for the whole Töölö Bay area in 1962. His impressive plan was never fully completed, but Finlandia Hall is still the prestigious centrepiece of the area, surrounded by other cultural institutions.

Iconic interior

Aalto designed Finlandia Hall, like many of his buildings, as a complete work of art including the interior. The lights, door handles, chairs and other furniture were designed by Aalto and his architect bureau. They constitute an essential part of the full masterpiece known as Finlandia Hall and definitely make the inside of the building worth a visit as well.

The interior includes many typical Aalto features, such as asymmetrical forms and natural materials. White marble is also used on the inside in bigger staircases, the concert hall and the foyers, which were also inspired by the architecture of ancient Italy and Greece.

According to Aalto’s vision, the main focus should be on the people: the performers and the members of the audience. The architecture should offer the perfect setting and create the right mood for the event, but not steal the show.

Guided tours

Take a guided tour to see more unique details and learn more about Finlandia Hall and Aalto’s work. Guided tours are arranged regularly for the public. Details on these can be found here. Staff at the Service Point – located at the entrance on Mannerheimintie, doors M4 and K4 – can provide additional information on how you can get to know us better.

Finlandia Hall is a masterpiece by the renowned Finnish architect, Alvar Aalto, and worth a visit in its own right.

Its combination of an all-embracing aesthetic vision, distinctive atmosphere, and functionality is unique. Our location in a park by the sea in the centre of Helsinki provides the final touch to a building that has no equal, either in Finland or anywhere else.

Art in Finlandia Hall

Art in conference rooms inspires and challenges people to think creatively. Not through direct orders, but pleasantly and subtly. Art is the secret ingredient in seminars and in brainstorming or group work sessions. An important task for art is to inspire and to provide inspiration.

Finlandia Hall’s artwork is curated by Amanuensis Kati Nenonen at the Helsinki Art Museum HAM. The artwork is loaned from HAM.

Alvar Aalto’s plan for Helsinki city centre and Finlandia Hall

Alvar Aalto is known to have said that “the most beautiful and central location in Helsinki needs a building that is worth it”. He craved to create something fantastic, fanciable – and of course functional. So why not something that you could call Finlandia Hall.

The location of Finlandia Hall is based on Aalto’s Plan for Helsinki City Centre dating from 1962. As well as Helsinki, cultural and administrative centres were being designed for three other Finnish cities, Seinäjoki (1950s onwards), Rovaniemi (1963 onwards) and Jyväskylä (1970 onwards), at roughly the same time. Of these, the Seinäjoki centre was the only one to be implemented in its entirety. A number of city centres abroad were also on the drawing board in Aalto’s office, but none of these were built.

In 1959, the Helsinki City Board commissioned Aalto to design a central area plan for the Kamppi-Töölönlahti (Töölö Bay) area. Aalto took the view that the Kämppi area should be included as, in his opinion, it was essential for a functional city centre to have a commercial quarter. Attention also had to be paid to traffic and car parking issues as well as the urban fabric.

The period when the design was being carried out coincided with a steep increase in the numbers of cars and other motor vehicles on the roads and this can be seen in the basic solution to the problem, drawn up by Aalto. The Plan for Helsinki City Centre was considerably larger in scale than plans for other Finnish cities. As it concerned the capital, the Helsinki plan was also of greater importance to Aalto.

In the design, the main traffic artery coming into Helsinki was located along the existing railway line, with cars driving along an elevated roadway above the tracks. From the highway, there would be views over Töölönlahti to a row of cultural buildings whose facades would be reflected in the water.

Of this row of cultural buildings along the shores of Töölönlahti, Finlandia Hall was the only one to be built. A vast square was planned to the south of Töölönlahti, with shops and space for parking to meet the demands of the increasing traffic, located underneath. In the plan, Finlandia Hall was sited in the row of cultural buildings at the junction of Hesperian puisto (Hesperia Park) and the square, thus being the cultural building nearest the city centre.

Aalto compared the white cultural buildings reflected in the water to Venetian palaces. Grouping the cultural buildings together as a single unit would emphasise Helsinki’s character as Finland’s capital. These views of Helsinki would be seen by everyone coming into the city, so that the right location of the buildings with the water in front and the green park behind was of paramount importance.

The City Council approved Aalto’s proposal as the basis for further development in 1966, though it had already been approved in principal in 1961. In the end, however, only a small part of the design was built. Finlandia Hall was designed and built during the periods 1967–71 and 1973–75. According to the Central Area Plan, the main elevation of Finlandia Hall faces onto Töölönlahti and the proposed incoming traffic highway. The fact that the Central Area Plan was not implemented left the Finlandia Hall surroundings incomplete on the Töölönlahti side. It is often said that, to the very end, Alvar Aalto remained disappointed that the Helsinki Central Area Plan was never implemented as a continuation of Finlandia Hall.



Finlandia Hall, a concert and congress venue, has hosted historically significant political summits in the centre of Helsinki for almost 50 years

Finland will assume the EU Presidency on 1 July 2019, and planning and preparations have been underway to host events for some time. However, this has not always been the case, and sometimes political summits have been planned and executed to almost impossible timelines.

The news that Presidents Trump and Putin were to hold a summit in Helsinki on the 16-17 July 2018 was received one week prior to the event, in the middle of the Finnish summer holiday season. In only five days, Finlandia Hall was transformed into ‘’the happiest media centre in the world’’, hosting
1500 journalist from around the world and catering for their every need. Finlandia Hall was able to quickly and professionally deliver these requirements through decades of experience and expertise in hosting world class events.

Finlandia Hall provided refreshments to journalists round the clock, drawing inspiration from Finnish traditional cuisine as well as modern culinary innovations. Guests were provided with fully equipped workspaces and multiple breakout areas such as an outside pop-up sauna and a roof terrace with splendid views over Töölönlahti Bay and Park. The arrangements gained universal praise and positive media attention for Finland, Helsinki and the Finlandia Hall.

Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe, 1975 – the International debut of the newly built Finlandia Hall

The Trump-Putin meeting was not the first time Finlandia Hall has hosted a political summit to a tight schedule. In 1975, in the middle of the cold war, the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE), was held at the Finlandia Hall. The Finnish President Urho Kekkonen proposed
already in 1969 that Finland should host the Conference, and Finlandia Hall was earmarked as the location, even before building work was completed.

The long-awaited news that Finlandia Hall would host the CSCE arrived on 15 July 1975, only two weeks before the start of the summit. Around 10,000 visitors were expected, and two scheduled medical conferences were quickly found alternative locations.

Preparations were finished on time thanks to the hard work of the Finlandia Hall staff, who worked in 3 shifts to ensure the deadline was met. Skills gained from hosting a conference of European Foreign Ministers back in 1973 proved vital, and the concert hall was rearranged with every third
row of seats removed and replaced with black tables in teak. Booths for translators were built at the back of the stage and a long table was placed centre stage for the symbolic signing of documents. The table was custom designed and made using old school desks, which were fitted with a new,
curved table top.

Privacy was central to the success of the CSCE, and temporary private meeting areas were built in the entrance hall. The Soviet leader Leonid Brežnev, who was suffering from poor health, requested a personal medical room, which was built on the managerial floor and kept top secret throughout the summit.

1350 journalist attended the summit and had use of the newly built congress wing. Finlandia Hall also built an internal TV network, so that events in the main hall could be followed everywhere in the building.

The security measures required for the CSCE were unprecedented in Helsinki. Guards were stationed throughout, including the roof. The comic writer Kari Suomalainen satirised this in a famous drawing called “President Kekkonen’s Fish Trap”, where world leaders were guided into a Finlandia Hall surrounded by metal fences. Everything went to plan; the only incident being a hushed security alert when suspicious men with binoculars were spotted on the roof tops in the nearby suburb of Kallio. The “threat” turned out to be nothing more sinister than curious civil servants straining to get a better look at the foreign dignitaries. Helsinki had established its reputation as a safe location for meetings.

A meeting point and a popular place for visitors

The CSCE founded Finlandia Hall’s reputation as the perfect location for global political events. Finland’s position at border between East and West makes the country a natural choice for meetings on neutral ground. Other global political summits held at Finlandia Hall include a 1990 meeting between George H. W. Bush and Mikhail Gorbachev during the Gulf War, and the 1997 negotiations between Presidents Bill Clinton and Boris Yeltsin over the expansion of NATO.

Finlandia Hall is also famous for its architecture and is often visited by foreign dignitaries. European royals as well as numerous statemen have walked along its corridors. Highly esteemed religious leaders, such as Dalai Lama and Pope John Paul II, have delivered speeches at Finlandia Hall.

Finlandia Hall is also a leading concert venue and has showcased many different styles and genres to a wide variety of music fans, for example ABBA, Frank Zappa, Patricia Kaas, Ella Fitzgerald, Manhattan Transfers, Rupaul’s Drag Race and Björk.

Finlandia Hall as a symbol of Finnish Independence

Finlandia Hall is the most notable building by architect Alvar Aalto (1898-1976), but few people know that Finlandia Hall was actually part of a wider programme to redevelop central Helsinki. In 1959, the city of Helsinki commissioned Aalto to design a new city plan, although ultimately Finlandia Hall was the only part that was executed. The main building was constructed between 1967-1971, the congress wing from 1973-1975 and Veranda in 2010-2011.

Moving the heart of Helsinki closer to Parliemant

The symbolically named Finlandia Hall is a concert and congress venue in the centre of Helsinki. Aalto viewed the Finlandia Hall, as well as the central plan for Töölö Bay, as a symbol for an independent Finland. Over the years, Finlandia Hall has showcased the Finnish cultural identity to an international audience and has earned its place as the location of choice for global political events.

Aalto’s vision was to move the heart of Helsinki closer to the Finnish Parliament House, the symbol of Finnish Independence gained in 1917. He wanted to create a new focal point that would counter-balance Helsinki’s iconic Senate Square, designed by Carl Ludvig Engel. The Senate Square reflects the historical period when Finland was an autonomous part of the Russian Empire, and by locating Finlandia Hall close to Parliament House, Aalto’s aim was to celebrate the new era of Finnish independence. By good fortune, a large plot of land had become available in Töölö Bay due to a recent warehouse relocation, and Finlandia Hall gained its spectacular location in the centre of Helsinki.

A building as a work of art down to the finest detail

Finlandia Hall is a work of art, where even the tiniest detail has been designed to perfection. The lighting, panels, cornices and every piece of furniture has been designed specifically for the space. Many of Aaltos signature design elements, such as asymmetry, can be found at Finlandia Hall. A common theme is spaces without a clear shape, surrounded by strongly shaped elements.

Aalto was of the firm view that architecture’s purpose is to provide a backdrop to people. It is the events and their content that bring colour to a space, and hence the focus at Finlandia Hall is not surprising forms or colourful interiors, but the performers and the audience. It means that Finlandia Hall can easily be transformed to suit the occasion.

The spaces at Finlandia Hall can be divided into four areas.  The first is the Finlandia Hall itself and its foyer which can accommodate up to 1700 guest. The second is the smaller Helsinki Hall, with its foyer and restaurant, suited for to up to 340 guests. Next comes the Congress Wing, which has meeting and congress spaces that can be configured to fit larger audiences. Finally, on the Karamzininranta side of the building, the Veranda Halls can easily be joined into one large 2200M2 space.

The white marble used on the exterior and interior of the building reflects Mediterranean culture, an inspiration for Aalto. The marble also acts as a contrast to the black granite used around the building. The Mediterranean influence is also reflected in the ‘’Piazza’’ name given to the concert hall foyer where the outside is brought in, with large scenic windows with a view of Töölö Bay.

Concerts, congresses and celebrations

Finlandia Hall made long anticipated rehearsal and concert spaces available to the Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra as well as to the Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra. However, from the beginning Finlandia Hall has been open to different types of music and performances. The second event at the newly opened venue in December 1972 was a pop-concert organised by the Helsinki Youth Club, with sausages, meatballs and soft drinks served at the intermission.

Finlandia Hall has also functioned as a congress centre since its opening. The first congress booking was made by the Finnish Dental Association during construction. Hosting the event at the newly built Finlandia Hall attracted a record crowd of 1700 participants, compared to the average of around 1000 people. The first international congress held in the Hall was the summit of the World Peace Council in 1972.

The international interest in Finlandia Hall continues to grow to this day. The hall is a popular venue for congresses, concerts and celebrations. In 2019 Finlandia Hall will host more than 800 events, including 70 EU meetings and 39 other international conferences. Finlandia Hall, owned by the City of Helsinki, is also a significant income generator. Research show that international congress visitors inject on average more than €50M into the economy each year. For every Euro spent at Finlandia Hall, congress attendees typically spend five Euros on other nearby services, such as hotels, restaurants and shopping.

Finlandia Hall: The culmination of Alvar Aalto’s career

Finlandia Hall is one of the last buildings designed by architect Alvar Aalto, who died not long after the building works were completed in 1976. Finlandia Hall had given Aalto an opportunity to create a building with symbolic significance for Finland. He deeply regretted however, that the city plan he created as a continuation to Finlandia Hall was never executed.

Finlandia Hall is seen as the most significant example of Finnish architecture, and has in the past 50 years attracted visitors to Helsinki from around the world. The numerous congresses, state visits and political summits have further increased Finlandia Hall’s international reputation. This year the Finnish EU-presidency will once again bring Finlandia Hall to the international limelight.

Restoration respecting Aalto’s legacy

To ensure Finlandia Hall will continue to bring unforgettable experiences to visitors, the Finlandia Hall will be thoroughly updated and renovated from 2022-2024. The building, that was completed in the 1970s, will benefit from a revamp and the modernisation of some technical aspects of the building. Renovation will be from the bottom up, and everything will be updated from the plumbing to the exterior. The original furniture will be lovingly restored by artisans.

Finlandia Hall will also see the addition of some completely new spaces. An exhibition space for Alvar Aalto and Finland-related exhibitions will be created along with a design shop. The aim is to make Finlandia Hall even more accessible for visitors by re-defining the space as an inviting, central hub in which to spend time – whether to eat or to be entertained.

Finlandia Hall will continue to serve its guest throughout the renovation in a new area called ‘Pikku-Finlandia’ (‘’Small Finlandia’’), which will be built on Karamzininranta road. The Congress Wing renovations will take a year, after which it will be re-opened to visitors. The renovations will enable Finlandia Hall to respond to increasing demand and serve its visitors even better.

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.

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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.

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Finlandia-talon rakennushistoriaselvitys (2005). Arkkitehtuuri- ja muotoilutoimisto Talli Oy.

Alvar Aalto Museum / Tomi Summanen