The following itinerary lists a range of museums, galleries, buildings and design projects which we plan to visit. Many are accessible to the public, but some require special permission, which may only be confirmed closer to the tour’s departure. The daily activities described in this itinerary may change or be rotated and/or modified in order to accommodate alterations in museum opening hours and privately hosted visits. Participants will receive a final itinerary together with their tour documents prior to departure. The tour includes breakfast daily, lunches and evening meals as indicated in the itinerary where: B=breakfast, L=lunch, and D=dinner
Day 1: Tuesday 16 September, Arrive Helsinki
- Tour commences at 3.00pm in the foyer of the Sokos Hotel Vaakuna
- Welcome Meeting
- Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma
- Welcome Drinks at Palace Terrace Bar
Meeting Point: The tour commences at 3.00pm in the foyer of the Sokos Hotel Vaakuna located next to the Helsinki Central Station.
We begin with a short welcome meeting and then proceed with a guided architectural tour of the Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma, designed by the American architect Steven Holl. The museum, highly controversial at the time of its design in 1998, exhibits the contemporary art collection of the Finnish National Gallery.
We end the day with welcome drinks at the Palace Terrace Bar. (Overnight Helsinki)
Day 2: Wednesday 17 September, Helsinki
- Architecture walking tour of Helsinki
- Finlandia Hall
- Design Museum
- Ateljé Sotamaa
- Welcome Dinner at Savoy Restaurant
Led by a local architect, we take a walking tour of cutting-edge Helsinki architecture with visits to Kamppi (the Chapel of Silence) with its curved shape, the Temppeliaukion Church, the famous ‘Rock Church’ designed by Timo and Tuomo Suomalainen in 1968 and 1969, the state-of-the-art music venue Musiikkitalo, and Oodi – the new Helsinki Central Public Library.
We are introduced to the life and work of the grandfather of Finnish architecture and design, Alvar Aalto. This iconic Finn served in the Finnish Civil war in 1918 whilst in the midst of his architecture studies. In the early 1920s, he began his architecture career, following the styles of classicism and functionalism. He then went through an experimental period and began designing building interiors. He became increasingly successful, inventing the widely used three-legged stool, and introducing the patented bent wood manufacturing process. Aalto’s designs include libraries in Russia, theatres in Germany and churches in Italy. Later in his career he was commissioned for key projects in Helsinki such as Finlandia Hall, a key landmark that we visit this morning. Constructed in 1971, the congress and events centre is a modernist building featuring a tower with a high empty space for better acoustics (hidden from guests by a latticed ceiling).
We travel by public transport to reach the Design Museum, which presents the development of Finnish design from the late 19th century to today. It showcases the biggest names of Finnish design, from Akseli Gallen-Gallela and Alvar Aalto to Tapio Wirkkala and Timo Sarpaneva. The permanent exhibition dates back to the 1870s and looks at craft, fashion, furniture design and industrial design.
We then visit the Ateljé Sotamaa and meet with award-winning architect Tuuli Sotamaa. The studio, formed by brother and sister team Kivi and Tuuli Sotamaa, focuses on creating emotionally appealing objects and holistic architectural environments.
Tonight, we enjoy a welcome dinner at the Savoy Restaurant, the 80-year-old museum-like restaurant which bears the hallmark of Alvar Aalto and his then newly-founded design brand Artek, looking over the rooftops of Helsinki. The restaurant’s best-known interior design detail is the Savoy Vase – the famous undulating vase whose first models were created in 1936 – designed by Alvar and his wife Aino Aalto. In 2020 Ilse Crawford and her eponymous studio worked with Artek to carry out a sensitive revamp of this notable restaurant. (Overnight Helsinki) BD
Day 3: Thursday 18 September, Helsinki
- Harri Koskinen Studio
- Lunch at Maritori Restaurant
- Ivana Helsinki House
- Iittala & Arabia Design Centre and Design Lab
Today we meet Harri Koskinen, who established his design studio, Friends of Industry Ltd. in Helsinki in 1998. In his work Koskinen focuses mainly on product design, though his studio also offers concept design and exhibition architecture. Koskinen’s impressive list of clients includes companies such as Artek, Design House Stockholm, Iittala, Magis, Issey Miyake, Montina, Muji, Panasonic, Seiko Instruments, Swarovski and Venini. Koskinen has received prestigious awards for his works, including the Compasso d’Oro Award 2004 for his Muu chair, the Torsten and Wanja Söderberg Prize 2009, the Wallpaper Design Award for his Sofabed in 2010, and the Kaj Franck Design Prize 2014. Koskinen’s works have been presented in numerous exhibitions all over the world. His Block lamp for Design House Stockholm (1996) is included in the collection of MoMA. He also has works in the permanent collections of the Design Museum in Helsinki and in the Chicago Athenaeum: Museum of Architecture and Design. Koskinen’s recent productions include an incense holder for Lisn, OMA tableware for Arabia and men’s underwear for Black Horse. Since 2012, Koskinen has been the Design Director of Iittala.
We continue our exploration of Finnish design with a visit to Marimekko, to see the world class Marimekko print-designed clothes, textiles and interior design pieces. Following our visit to the Marimekko we have lunch at the refurbished Maritori Restaurant.
Next, we visit Ivana Helsinki Studio. Paola Ivana Suhonen is the Helsinki born designer, artist and film-maker behind the independent fashion and cinema brand Ivana Helsinki. Her brand is the only Scandinavian womenswear collection to be accepted into the official Paris Fashion Week “IN” Show calendar and has been featured in several alternative projects where fashion, design and modern art have been combined.
In the surrounding area, we observe the participatory architectural planning in residential suburb of Arabianranta. Literally ‘the coast or shoreline of Arabia’, this extraordinary old mixed industrial and residential precinct gained its name long before the Arabia ceramics factory, the largest ceramics centre in Europe, was built there. The name Arabia, or rather, ‘Arabian ja Kaanaan maa’ (the land of Arabia and Canaan) is already found in 18th-century documents whereas the Arabia factory was not founded until 1871.
Nowadays, Arabianranta is undergoing a fascinating revival in which ultra-modern development contrasts to older industrial plant style. It is fundamentally a place of contrasts: ‘old and new’, ‘nature and urbanity’, ‘industry and residence’, ‘work and peace’, ‘art and technology’. Arabianranta is home to 10,000 people, a workplace for 5000 and a campus for 6000 students and professionals. The highlight of our exploration is a visit to Iittala & Arabia Design Centre, Finland’s most celebrated design and lifestyle brands, Iittala and Arabia. In their Design Lab Centre, we meet new artists in residence. (Overnight Helsinki) BL
Day 4: Friday 19 September, Helsinki
- Architecture walking tour of Helsinki
- Marita Huurinainen Showroom
- Lunch at Dylan Marmoripiha Restaurant in the Rautalo building
- Artek Flagship Store
- Artek 2nd Cycle
We begin the day with another walking tour of Helsinki, with an emphasis on Art Nouveau and Neo-classical architecture. We stop first to visit Helsinki Main Railway Station built by Eliel Saarinen, between 1903 and 1919. We then walk to Pohjola Insurance Building; this Art Nouveau building was designed by Eliel Saarinen and built in 1901 by Gesellius, Lindgren and Saarine.
The Neo-classical Senate Square in Helsinki is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful urban squares in the world. In the heart of Helsinki, one can still feel the presence of both Russia and Sweden – and that of Europe, along the lush, lively Esplanade Park with its neo-renaissance palaces and cafés. Then we visit Akateminen Bookstore, the Academic Bookstore, the masterpiece designed by the renowned Alvar Aalto in 1969.
At the end of our tour, we meet with designer Marita Huurinainen at her showroom, which features modern wooden clogs, evening wear and other creations. Of particular fame is her award-winning ‘wave shoe’, innovatively designed to be flexible to walk in, even though it is made from wood.
We enjoy lunch at Dylan Marmoripiha, located in the historic Rautatalo building designed by Alvar Aalto.
We then visit the Artek Flagship Store. When Artek first opened in 1935, it mainly sold furniture designed by two of its cofounders, the architect and designer couple Alvar Aalto and his wife, Aino. It still sells classic Aalto, but also stocks the works of other famous Finnish and international designers.
We finish the day with a short walk to Artek 2nd Cycle, a shop featuring a vintage collection of Alvar Aalto furniture as well as other Finnish and international brands. (Overnight Helsinki) BL
Day 5: Saturday 20 September, Helsinki – Järvenpää – Helsinki
- The Aalto House and Studio: guided tour
- Villa Kokkonen: guided tour
- Villa Ainola: guided tour
We commence with a visit of the Family Home and Office designed by Aino and Alvar Aalto in 1934-36. The building presents a severe façade to the street, hiding an interior that experiments with the ‘Romantic Functionalist Style’ that Aalto fully developed in the later Villa Mairea. Nearby we visit Aalto’s studio of 1955, which is often considered one of his finest buildings from the ’50s.
We next transfer to one of Aalto’ last works, Villa Kokkonen, designed for the composer Joonas Kokkonen. Completed in 1969, it has been seen as a precursor to Finlandia Hall in Helsinki. The heart of the home is the large study, which was designed around a grand piano, a unique orchestration of architecture, design and music.
To conclude the day’s program, we visit Villa Ainola. Jean Sibelius and his family moved into this villa in 1904 after it was designed by Lars Sonck according to just two simple requests from the composer: a view of Lake Tuusula and a green fireplace in the dining room. The current appearance of the house is an authentic representation of the house as it was in 1969, when Aino Sibelius passed away there, 12 years after the death of her composer husband. We visit Aino’s garden, sauna and Sibelius’ tomb. (Overnight Helsinki) BL
Day 6: Sunday 21 September, Helsinki
- Lokal Gallery
- Museum of Finnish Architecture: guided tour
- Iittala Flagship Store
- Löyly Sauna: architectural visit with Ville Hara and Anu Puustinen, Avanto Architects, optional sauna visit and view from the terraces
We commence with a visit to Lokal, an award-winning concept store and gallery in the heart of Helsinki. Lokal Gallery, founded by photographer Katja Hagelstam, specializes in showcasing unique and limited edition items by local artists, designers and artisans. Temporary exhibitions aim to provide new experiences, which revolve around an exceptional understanding of material, whether that’s glass, ceramics, wood, or textile. Showing a mix of recognised as well as up-and-coming artists, Lokal is also a Helsinki retailer of highly acclaimed Fiskars-based furniture brand Nikari.
We then visit the Museum of Finnish Architecture, whose huge collection consists of 85,000 black-and-white photographs, 30,000 slides, 500,000 original drawings, copies of drawings, documents and models. Our visit here provides an excellent overview of Finnish 20th-century architecture. Next we explore the Iittala Flagship Store, designed by Kaj Franck, which has served generations of Iittala customers since it first opened in the 1950s. The historic space presents the Iittala collection, along with a wide selection of Arabia products.
We end the day with a visit to Löyly Sauna which we tour with the architects Ville Hara and Anu Puustinen, Avanto Architects. Löyly is the Finnish word for the steam that envelopes you when water is thrown on the hot sauna rocks. This steam is essential to the sauna experience, which tour participants can either partake in at leisure or, alternatively, you may wish to climb atop the building to admire sea views. We enjoy a drink on the terrace. (Overnight Helsinki) B
Day 7: Monday 22 September, Helsinki – Lahti – Jyväskylä
- Alvar Aalto’s Church of the Cross, Lahti
- Sibelius Hall, Lahti
- Piano Pavilion, Lahti
- University of Jyväskylä incl. main building with library, Lozzi Restaurant & Training School
Today we depart Helsinki and drive north to Lahti. On arrival we tour Aalto’s Church of the Cross (1970-1978), described as Gethsemane, a garden of peace in Lahti’s city centre. The church’s brilliant light-filled interior and excellent acoustics make a stunning concert space.
We continue to Sibelius Hall, a congress and concert centre completed in 2000 and situated by the Lake Vesijärvi. The very spacious Forest Hall and the stunning lake scenery create an incredible atmosphere, and as architects Hannu Tikka and Kimmo Lintula explain, the main source of inspiration in the design was Finnish forests. This is the biggest public wooden building to be constructed in Finland in the last 100 years.
Continuing with the wood theme, we visit the Piano Pavilion, built in 2008 from eco-friendly materials and part of the wooden architecture park being built in the area. According to Swedish-born Gert Wingårdh, the building resembles a ship that is about to launch.
In the afternoon we drive through Finnish woodlands to Jyväskylä where we tour Aalto’s University including the main building with the library, the Lozzi Restaurant and the training school. (Overnight Jyväskylä) BLD
Day 8: Tuesday 23 September, Jyväskylä
Today is filled with visits to Alvar Aalto buildings. With an expert local guide, we venture onto the island of Muuratsalo, which features a typical Finnish mixed forest, with birch and pine predominating. Here, we view Aalto’s Experimental House which along with Villa Mairea (visited on day 10) is one of the best examples of Alvar Aalto’s residential architecture.
Other Aalto buildings visited this morning are Muurame Church (1926-29), and Saynatsalo Town Hall. James Maude Richards, British architectural writer, said of the Town Hall in 1978: ‘It is intimate and idiosyncratic, with an unusual layout directly responsive to the genus loci.’ The dark red brick, wood and copper of the buildings, and their abruptly varied roof shapes, seen through closely planted trees, visually link the whole group to the rugged landscape.
This afternoon is dedicated to visiting the new Aalto2 Museum Centre which opened in 2023. Designed by A-Konsultit Architects, the centre comprises three buildings: the renovated Alvar Aalto Museum, the Museum of Central Finland, and the new addition of the Aalto2 centre. Within the museum we may view displays of architecture, furniture, textiles and glassware, documenting the rapid economic growth and industrialisation that Finland experienced during the first half of the 20th century. (Overnight Jyväskylä) BL
Day 9: Wednesday 24 September, Jyväskylä – Petäjävesi – Seinäjoki
- Petäjävesi Old Church, Petäjävesi
- Lunch at Hotel Alma, Seinäjoki
- The Aalto Centre: guided tour, Seinäjoki
This morning we drive west towards Seinäjoki with a stop on the way in Petäjävesi, where the UNESCO World Heritage Old Church is located. Built in the 1760s for a small Lutheran parish, it was the town’s main church until 1879 when the new church was built. From the time when the new church started to be used, the old church was completely abandoned and consequently its preservation was ensured due to minimal interference from heating systems and other modifications. Features of the Petäjävesi Old Church include the steep pitched roof recalling the Gothic tradition, the interior’s hand-carved log surfaces with their silky patina and the silvery sheen on the seasoned walls, the elaborately carved pulpit, pews, chandeliers, and galleries with balustrades, which are entirely the work of local craftsmen and artists.
Upon arrival in Seinäjoki, we enjoy lunch at Hotel Alma. This refurbished building, just over a century old, was formerly a meeting point for railroad workers. Standing on the Hotel’s terrace, you can view the famous silhouette of Lakeuden Risti, a modern church designed by Alvar Aalto.
This afternoon, we visit the Aalto Centre in Seinäjoki, an internationally unique architectural complex, comprised of six buildings and Kansalaistori, the ‘Citizens’ Square’, built in 1988. Our walking tour takes us to four of the buildings designed by Alva Aalto: Lakeuksien Risti Church, City Hall, the Theatre and the Library. The church was designed by Aalto in response to a competition to find a church for a ‘small but rapidly evolving market town’. Then, there is the city hall, whose unique facade of dark blue ceramic tiles, designed by Aalto to be ‘that of the Seinäjoki Hall and of nowhere else’, is characteristic of a more diverse modernistic expression that Aalto developed later in his career. Next, we view the Seinäjoki theatre that Aalto designed in 1968, but was only completed almost 20 years later in 1987 under the supervision of Elissa Aalto. The façade is constructed of ceramic blocks. The airy foyer is furnished with Artek pieces and houses Aalto’s unique collection of bent wood reliefs. We finish the tour of the centre with the library, whose fan-shaped main room is the most striking feature. Light falls through the window slats casting beautiful shapes on the ceiling, walls and shelves. The restored Aalto-designed library was opened in May 2015. (Overnight Seinäjoki) BL
Day 10: Thursday 25 September, Seinäjoki – Noormarkku – Rauma – Turku
- Villa Mairea, Noormarkku: guided tour
- Lunch at Villa Tallbo, Rauma
- Old Rauma: walking tour
A scenic drive through the sparsely populated Noormarkku region brings us to Villa Mairea, an Alvar Aalto masterpiece of 20th-century architectural design. This villa is representative of the stage in Aalto’s career when he was moving from reduced functionalism to more organic but modern architectural expression in the late 1930s. It was built for Maire and Harry Gullichsen, a wealthy and open-minded couple, friends of Aalto. The couple was so supportive of Aalto’s modern design, that whilst the early stages of the building were being completed, they were convinced by Aalto to accept a hurried new project that was based on the concept of a continuous 250-square-metre living space, intended to resemble the limitless space of nature. This would accommodate all the collective functions of the house as well as the owner’s art collections.
We stop for lunch in Rauma, one of the oldest harbours in Finland, and then take a walking tour through Old Rauma. This UNESCO World Heritage medieval town is one of the finest examples of a Nordic city constructed in wood. (Overnight Turku) BL
Day 11: Friday 26 September, Turku – Kustavi – Paimio – Turku
- Architecture walking tour of Turku: Alvar Aalto & Erik Bryggman
- Haroma & Partners’ Summer Villa, Kustavi
- Guided tour of Paimio Sanatorium
We begin this morning with an architecture walking tour of Turku following the steps of Alvar Aalto and Eryk Bryggman. Alvar Aalto resided in Turku between 1927 and 1933. During this time Turku played a significant role in the emergence of new architecture and furniture design. The tour includes exterior visits to three transitional works of Aalto’s functionalism: the Maalaistentalo, the Turun Sanomat as well as the Seurahuone. Having established his own office here in Turku at the beginning of the 1920’s, Erik Bryggman was one of the earliest representatives of functionalism in Finnish architecture. Among others, the tour presents his Hotel Hospits, Atrium and Student Union buildings.
After the tour we drive a short distance west of Turku to Kustavi, an archipelago made up of over two thousand islands. We will visit one of the ‘Summer Villas’ designed by Haroma & Partners, a small architecture firm established in 2004 and winners of ‘house of the day’ in Modern House in 2015. This Summer Villa is a private seaside residence only accessible by a short boat trip.
After our visit to the Summer Villas, we stop for picnic lunch on the shores of one of Kustavi’s many islands.
On the opposite side of Turku lies Paimio, where Alvar Aalto’s Paimio Sanatorium was built as an isolation hospital for tuberculosis patients in the 1920s. Winning an award for the design of this hospital at the age of 30, this design helped Aalto prove himself as an innovative and radical man with a social conscience. The design shows that Aalto had a profound concern for the diverse physical and psychological needs of patients with tuberculosis. Considerable emphasis was laid upon the peacefulness of the environment, hygiene and user comfort as well as humane, sustainable solutions. (Overnight Turku) BL
Day 12: Saturday 27 September, Turku – Fiskars – Kirkkonummi – Helsinki
- Antrei Hartikainen – Designer/Master cabinetmaker, Fiskars
- Villa Hvitträsk, Kirkkonummi
- Dinner at Finnjävel’s Sali Restaurant designed by Ateljé Sotamaa
This morning we depart Turku for Helsinki. En route we visit the studio of Antrei Hartikainen, a master cabinetmaker and designer known for his exquisite works in wood. He was awarded young designer of the year in 2018 by Design Forum Finland. Most recently he was longlisted for Dezeen Awards 2022 emerging design studio of the year. His award-winning pieces including functional products and art works, are sensual and elegant.
Next we visit Villa Hvitträsk which was built at the beginning of the 20th century and designed in the National Romantic style. This villa was home to architects Eliel Saarinen and Armas Lindgren, and was visited by esteemed figures such as Jean Sibelius, Axel Gallen-Kallela and Maksim Gorki.
Tonight we dine at Finnjävel’s Sali Restaurant designed by Ateljé Sotamaa. (Overnight Helsinki) BD
Day 13: Sunday 28 September, Helsinki
- Visit Studio Kukkapuro: studio home of designer Yrjö Kukkapuro (to be confirmed in 2025)
- Guided tour of Didrichsen Art Museum
- Amos Rex Art Museum
- Time at leisure
- Farewell Dinner
This morning we drive to the outskirts of Helsinki to visit Studio Kukkapuro – the studio and home of furniture designer Yrjö Kukkapuro and wife Irmeli Kukkapuro, a graphic artist. Designed through the collaboration of Kukkapuro and an engineer friend, Studio Kukkapuro is a remarkable 2150 square-foot studio and home that is entirely open-planned. Its defining feature is the unusual parabolic roofline, fabricated from eight-centimetre thick concrete. The roofline angles down to the ground in three places, acting as both roof and walls of the structure. The studio home is completed by seamless rows of windows, which connect the studio home effortlessly with its natural surroundings. We enjoy an exclusive visit to the studio home, where we can explore the countless examples of Kukkapuro furniture designs. Designed in 1969, Kukkapuro’s Remmi chair blends minimalism with ergonomic comfort and remains the best music listening chair in the world.
Next, we take a guided tour of the Didrichsen Art Museum. Located on Kuusisaari island in Helsinki, the Didrichsen Art Museum is a unique combination of an art museum and a private villa by the seaside. Villa Didrichsen was designed by Viljo Revell, who worked as Alvar Aalto’s assistant in the world exhibition in Paris and whose influences included the well-known modernist architect, Swiss-French Le Corbusier.
In the afternoon we take an architectural tour of Amos Rex, a multi-award winning art museum by architecture firm JKMM. The remainder of the afternoon is at leisure. This evening we enjoy a Farewell Dinner at a local restaurant. (Overnight Helsinki) BD
Day 14: Monday 29 September, Depart Helsinki
- Tour concludes in the morning
- At leisure/Check out
Our tour ends in Helsinki after breakfast. In the morning you will be required to check out of the hotel. Please contact ASA if you require assistance with a transfer to Helsinki Airport. B