The Twentieth Century Society

Campaigning for outstanding buildings

C20 Holiday Stays

Säynätsalo Town Hall, Finland

Sleeps: Choice of apartments and basic single rooms

Säynätsalo Town Hall, Finland

Photo: Dr. Alistair Fair, Lecturer in Architectural History, University of Edinburgh


Architect: Alvar Aalto

This castle-like red brick building holds a special status in the history of C20 architecture.


Recommended by: Dr. Alistair Fair, Reader in Architectural History, University of Edinburgh.

My partner and I stayed in one of the self-contained flats at Säynätsalo Town Hall for a few days in summer 2018, as part of a longer trip around Finland. We don’t generally do ‘architectural’ holidays, but we like Aalto’s work and wanted an excuse to see Finland beyond Helsinki. The trip included a few days near Imatra, then on to Säynätsalo, then Seinajöki to Tampere, then ending up in Helsinki. During the trip we saw most of the best-known Aalto buildings, using a hired car. Säynätsalo was a particular highlight, as was a private tour of the Villa Mairea. 

While we were at Säynätsalo, we travelled over to Aalto’s cottage at Muuratsalo (not far away) and also spent an afternoon in Jyväskylä, which has several Aalto buildings and the Aalto Museum. Staying in the town hall means that you get access to all the key spaces. The flat itself is comfortable; there’s a supermarket nearby, and places to eat out. The setting is lovely – forest, mountains, lakes, so plenty of chance to walk as well as to see architectural stuff.”

Säynätsalo Town Hall

Photo: courtesy of Säynätsalo Town Hall

Background to the building:

The town of Säynätsalo located on a small island in central Finland’s Lake Päijänne, was first laid out in 1945. A few years later, the community organized an architectural competition to find a design for a town hall to complete their new municipality which was, by then, the home to around 3000 people.  The result is regarded as among Alvar Aalto’s most significant works, holding a special status in the history of twentieth-century architecture. This castle-like red brick building has an elevated courtyard with entrances to the administrative offices and the library. Located higher than the rest of the building, the council chamber dominates the area. Despite its Modernist aesthetic, the building has been heavily influenced by Renaissance and Medieval Italian architecture. The building also has apartments and commercial facilities, some of which have been converted for other purposes.

Aalto was one of the first and most influential architects of the Scandinavian modern movement. Major architectural works include Finlandia Hall, Paimio Sanitarium, and Restaurant Savoy. Aalto would not only would design a building, but also its interior features to create an entire work of art.


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