During this year’s Open House Helsinki weekend, we visited Alvar Aalto’s house in Munkkiniemi (north-western Helsinki; see on our map). 

View from the backgarden

Alvar Aalto was one of Finland’s most influential designers, being particularly famous as an architect. His furniture designs (many of them done in collaboration with his wives) are still being produced, and his buildings are some of the most iconic in Helsinki. So, it was with great interest that we joined an English tour of the house that he designed, furnished and lived in until his death.

View of the house from the outside – our tour group is visiting the house’s sauna via the external entrance.

We were really impressed by the building – the street front is understated and appears small, but the interior is large and very open, with big windows allowing in lots of natural light. There were many clever design touches everywhere – one of my favourites was that the diningroom cupboard had a discrete storage area for the extra panels for increasing the capacity of the diningtable. Also, on the balcony there were two planters in the shape of Aalto’s famous Savoy vases.

Looking out from the dining room

One of the fun features in the house was a very narrow (almost hidden) staircase that Alvar would use to escape from his office to the upstairs balcony. Also of interest – new employees at his architecture firm spend there first week (or weeks even) just sharpening pencils… not very exciting for the interns there!

Aalto’s favourite working space – receiving light from the south and west, with some of his watercolour paintings now displayed against the wall

Only a short distance away you can find Aalto’s studio (designed and built when his home was too small for all his architects) – tours of that building are also possible. You can find opening hours, tour prices, etc. at the Alvar Aalto Museo website. And if you don’t want to part with 17 € per person for a tour… then keep an eye on Open House Helsinki’s website in case free tours are run again next summer (but in our opinion the guided tour would have been worth the fee!).



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