Press Release Sep 9, 2019
The Cultivated Landscape of Alvar Aalto is an exhibition co-produced by the Museum of Finnish Architecture and the Alvar Aalto Foundation looking at previously unexplored aspects of the famous architect’s work.
As for the Finnish landscape, I have always been immersed in it. When I began to appreciate the balance and harmony it exudes, I also began to understand how we humans should treat out natural surroundings.

– Alvar Aalto, 1972 –
Landscapes form an inseparable part of Alvar Aalto’s (1898–1976) architecture. He viewed them through the lens of an architect, in terms of how they could be reshaped and refined. He began his design process by considering the spirit of the place, both as a physical location and as a site of social interaction. Aalto treated the building’s surroundings as an extension of the interior, just as he viewed the site itself from a broader, landscape-focused perspective. Here he possessed deep insight, masterfully designing everything from small-scale gardens to large-scale landscaping projects.
The new exhibition opening at the Museum of Finnish Architecture looks at Aalto’s relationship with the landscape – how he experienced it, and how he sought to integrate his architecture with the character of the terrain and vegetation of each site. Various factors influenced the outcome. The university campuses of Otaniemi and Jyväskylä offer a sample of how Aalto expertly wove together older architecture heritage to create something wholly new.
The exhibition takes a comprehensive look at how various features of the landscape influenced Aalto’s design process and his unique way of interpreting and reshaping the surroundings in dialogue with his architecture. With the town centre of Seinäjoki, for instance, he completely transformed the site with bold earthworks and by varying the height of the buildings. The head office of the Social Insurance Institution in Töölö is a red brick edifice that sits atop a pedestal of granite bedrock, with the above-ground volumes grouped tightly around a small inner courtyard. Aalto was, above all, a legendary architect, but his merits in landscaping also deserve recognition.
Amid a growing body of evidence pointing to the important role that nature plays in maintaining health and wellbeing, the presence of nature in urban environments is a highly topical theme of discourse at the moment. Finland’s most famous architect was ahead of his time in advocating green corridors and biophilic design, of which his architecture offers a fine sample. For Aalto, nature symbolized renewal as the wellspring of human wellbeing. With this tenet in mind, he made a careful study of Finland’s forests and vernacular architecture as well as the hillside vineyards and classical ruins of the Mediterranean. In defending the power of plants, Aalto saw himself as promulgating the fundamental principles of European humanism. In doing so, he was also an early precursor to the rise of contemporary eco-discourse.
- The exhibition invites us to appreciate landscapes as an integral part of Aalto’s architectural legacy, says curator and researcher Teija Isohauta.
- The role of the landscape is often forgotten when old buildings are repaired and modernized. It is important to preserve every layer of a building’s history – including the surrounding landscape. It would be wonderful if we could restore the original garden in which patients once strolled on the grounds of Paimio Sanatorium, which formed an important part of Aalto’s vision. I would also love to see the original water feature in the courtyard of the Social Insurance Institution working again.
The exhibition concept is by Professor (emeritus) Tom Simons, with texts by curator Teija Isohauta.

The Cultivated Landscape of Alvar Aalto
Museum of Finnish Architecture, 25.9.2019–12.4.2020
The exhibition will tour the Alvar Aalto Museum in Jyväskylä in summer 2020.
For further information and press images
Ilona Hildén, Communications
Museum of Finnish Architecture
+358 (0)45 7731 0468
Contact details
Museum of Finnish Architecture
Kasarmikatu 24
00130 Helsinki
Tue-Sun 11–18
Wed 11–20
Adults €10
Students, pensioners, the unemployed €5
Under 18s and war veterans free admission
Combi-ticket to the Museum of Finnish Architecture and Design Museum €15
Free admission with Museum Card