A Museum Like a Cozy Living Room

Ulf Meyer
22. March 2023
Alvar Aalto Museum (1971-73) and Museum of Central Finland (1956-61, 1991), winter. (Photo: Maija Holma © Alvar Aalto Foundation)

If you are interested in architect Alvar Aalto, you have to learn the complicated place-name Jyväskylä. In this city in Central Finland a hero was born and left behind an impressive array of early and late works and a museum about his legacy, a museum he himself designed. It was closed for the last couple of years and will reopen in Ruusupuisto Park as the new Aalto2 Museum Centre on May 27, 2023. It consists of two buildings designed by Aalto — the Aalto Museum (1973) and the Museum of Central Finland (1961) — and the new extension that connects these two Aalto buildings for the first time. About 16 million euros were spent on the renovation and extension.

Aalto2 Museum Centre, Alvar Aalto Museum exhibition hall after renovation (Photo: Maija Holma © Alvar Aalto Foundation)

Since Aalto is of greatest importance not only for the cultural self-esteem of the Republic of Finland, but for the history of a much-loved stream of modern architecture in Northern Europe, even small changes to, and an extension of, his two museums were carefully orchestrated — the 2016 design competition attracted nearly 700 entries! A small, little-known firm from Helsinki, Arkkitehtitoimisto A-Konsultit Oy, won. Their scheme was designed to “improve accessibility and increase cooperation” between the now conjoined museums. Their shared lobby, shop, and cafe form a cosy “living room” and larger spaces for exhibitions and events.

Aalto2 Museum Centre new interior spaces (Photo: Maija Holma © Alvar Aalto Foundation)

Aalto2 will display a joint exhibition called Human Traces – World Heritage, curated by Anna and Eugeni Bach, the architectural duo from Barcelona who also designed the exhibition. A new permanent exhibition, Aalto – Work and Life, introduces Aalto and his first wife, Aino, and second wife, Elissa, as designers and architects. The third exhibition, Exploring Central Finland, traces the spirit of Central Finland from prehistoric times to the present. It is this culture and landscape that shaped Aalto as a young man and helped him form a special relationship to nature and its forms.

Aalto2 Museum Centre. The staircase of the Alvar Aalto Museum (1971-73) after the renovation (Photo Maija Holma © Alvar Aalto Foundation)
Lecture Hall, the Museum of Central Finland (Photo: Raisa Nerg © The Museum of Central Finland)

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