Finland has an extraordinary architecture and design tradition. It was founded, in large part, by the great modernist architect and designer of furniture, textiles and glassware, Alvar Aalto (1898–1976). His foundations were built upon by the Finnish-American architect Eliel Saarinen (1910–1961) and a host of designers. Great Finnish design names include Arabia, famous for its pottery and porcelain, Artek a furniture company founded by Alvar and Aino Aalto, and Marimekko world-renowned for its printed textiles. Contemporary designers include Marita Huurinainen, famous for her ‘wave shoes’, Harri Koskinen best known for his ‘Block Lamp’, and Tuuli Sotamaa, author of the ‘Happy Chair’.
Among Aalto’s clean, minimal masterpieces are his great Finlandia Hall, Helsinki, the Workers Club in Jyväskylä and his town hall at Säynätsalo. He also designed a Sanatorium at Paimio, his own experimental house and studio at Muuratsalo, the Villa Mairea in Noormarkku, and the striking Aalto Centre in Seinäjoki. His designs may be viewed in the Alvar Aalto Museum in both Jyväskylä and Helsinki. Among Eliel Saarinen’s works are Helsinki Central Station and his own home and studio, Villa Hvitträsk, in Kirkkonummi.
Later architectural masterpieces include Helsinki’s Kamppi Chapel by Kimmo Lintula, Niko Sirola and Mikko Summanen, and the new Central Public Library by ALA Architects.
Finland’s fine museums include the Kiasma Museum of Contemporary Art. The Didrichsen Art Museum is a private seaside villa designed by Alvar Aalto’s assistant, Viljo Revell. There are also the multi award-winning Amos Rex Art Museum, Helsinki’s Design Museum and Museum of Finnish Architecture.
In this heavily wooded country, Finnish designers have a special interest in the uses of timber. Situated between forest and lake, Lahti city is especially noted for its wooden architecture. In Haltia, the special Finnish sympathy for nature is reflected in the award-winning Finnish Nature Centre. In Ainola, the house museum of Finnish composer Jean Sibelius, features his Steinway grand piano.
Architecture & design writer Stephen Crafti explores Finland's contemporary art, architecture, furniture and fashion. Visits include the new Aalto2 Museum Centre in Jyväskylä which opened in 2023. Read more