Building Interior

Finlandia Hall is divided into a concert hall, a chamber music hall, several smaller auditoriums, restaurant spaces, and an extension with conference rooms. The large, asymmetrical concert hall can seat up to 1,700 guests, while the small chamber music hall can seat up to 350. The Piazza, a foyer located between these two halls, continues into the Congress Wing.


Building floor plan

Aalto meticulously planned every detail of the interior, which features the same Carrara marble as the building’s facade as well as Italian tivertine stone. Red beech and Finnish birch wood accentuate the doors and walls. The foyer is covered by Wilton needleloom carpeting, while the concert hall features an oak parquet floor. (“Finlandia Hall in Brief”).

Lobby and Restaurant


Building Exterior and Surroundings

Finlandia Hall is located in a small park at the center of Helsinki, overlooking Töölö bay. Aalto had plans to design a number of buildings around the bay, but these plans were never realized.

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Google Street View

Finlandia Hall features a tower-like section with a sloping roof, designed to enhance the main auditorium’s acoustics. One distinctive feature of the building’s exterior is the wave-like wall which lines the Congress wing. Aalto designed the wall in sections that curve inwards, hoping to preserve the surrounding trees and to avoid rigid right angles.

Congress Wing


Inspired by Italian architecture, Aalto attempted to introduce Mediterranean culture to Finland by covering the entire facade of the building with thin, Carrara marble tiles. These marvel tiles began to deteriorate over time and bow outward since the Italian stone was not well-suited for Finland’s harsh climatic conditions. In 1992, the Association of Finnish Architects (SAFA), together with the Museum of Architecture and the Architectural Society, proposed a preservation plan that was accepted by the Finnish government the following year (Jokinen).

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Concave Bowing of Marble Panels on Exterior (Hansen et al.)

The restoration of the exterior was completed between 1998 and 1999, but the marble panels began to bow again a few years later. The choice of Carrara marble is often regarded as an architectural error; however, the uniform bowing of these panels actually creates a very beautiful effect. Dan Hill, an associate director at the  global design and engineering firm Arup, proposes that the choice of Carrara marble was a benign error with wonderful consequences. His photo below captures the aesthetic result.

Bowing of Marble Tiles (Hill)

Dan Hill’s Flickr photo cache of Finlandia Hall can be found below. His photo collection illustrates the building’s beautiful exterior, capturing the detail of the Carrara marble tiles.



Background on Finlandia Hall

  • Location: Helsinki, Finland (Capital City)
  • Architect: Alvar Aalto
  • Designed: 1962
  • Constructed: 1967-72
  • Purpose: Congress and event venue
  • Program: Concert hall, chamber music hall, several small auditoriums, restaurants, and conference rooms
  • Users: Performers, music ensembles, event goers, national and international political leaders, various organizations, etc.

Monumental architecture fascinated Alvar Aalto, who was commissioned to design Finlandia Hall as a concert hall and formal meeting venue. His architectural paradigm was grounded in functionalist principles yet shifted away from the restrictions of rationalist classicism. From the middle of his career onward, Aalto favored an organic modernist style, which emphasized natural materials and flowing lines. Finlandia Hall was designed with these principles in mind. The building’s artistic elements are decorative, but they were still designed with consideration to function. The inclined roof rising over the entire structure, one of the distinctive elements of Finlandia Hall, was intended to facilitate acoustic resonance (Schildt).

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Ground Floor Plan

Below is my own sketch of the building’s east facade. The tower-like main section, which houses the concert hall, is visible in the background:

Sketch by Natasha Stewart

These professional sketches accurately protray both the east and west sides of the building:

Sketches of the east and west facades of Finlandia Hall

Finally, the following advertisement for Finlandia Hall depicts the building and its multiple uses. The video captures the building’s multifaceted design and many purposes.

Finnish Architect Alvar Aalto

Alvar Aalto began his career as an architect in the 1920’s, shortly after Finland became an independent nation. His style changed over the course of his career, making it difficult to classify (Schildt). However, Aalto generally maintained a cynical view of technology-orientated rationalism. He believed that true rationalism should include not only technological components but also humanistic and psychological considerations. These elements of his architecture, which sometimes seemed arbitrary, were often symbolically functional (Kim). Aalto also viewed architecture as a form of mediation between people and nature, and he attempted to reflect this relationship in his designs. He often employed contrasting textural effects with various organic materials, aiming to avoid the sterile appearance of many modern architectural structures (Rasmussen).


Schildt, Göran. “Alvar Aalto & Finlandia Hall.” Foreword. Web. 7 Feb. 2016.

Ingervo, Eva, and Pertti Ingervo. Alvar Aalto. Digital image. Alvar Alto Museum, n.d. Web. 5 Feb. 2016.

Finlandia Hall. Digital image. Ftnt^2. N.p., 28 Apr. 2014. Web.

“Finlandia Hall in Brief.” Finlandia Talso Huset Hall. Finlandia Hall Ltd, n.d. Web. 06 Feb. 2016.

Finlandia Hall Lobby. Digital image. Alvar Aalto’s Architecture – Finlandia Hall Update 1. N.p., 23 Mar. 2014. Web. 7 Feb. 2016.

Finlandia Hall – Plan of Principal Floor. Digital image. Alvar Aalto Museum. N.p., n.d. Web. 5 Feb. 2016.

Hill Dan. “Finlandia: The Greatest Architectural Mistake Ever Made? Aalto’s Benign Errors.” Web log post. City of Sound. N.p., n.d. Web. 6 Feb. 2016.

Hansen, Kurt Kielsgaard, Henrik Leksø, and Bent Grelk. “Assessment of the durability of marble cladding by laboratory exposure compared to natural exposure.” Research in Building Physics (Jan Carmeliet HHGV (ed.)). Swets & Zeitlinger, Lisse, Switzerland (2003): 267-269.

Jokinen, Martti. “Finlandia Hall, Helsinki.” Docomomo Journal (2003).

Kim, Hyon-Sob. “Alvar Aalto and Humanizing of Architecture.” Journal of Asian Architecture and Building Engineering 8.1 (2009): 9-16.

Rasmussen, Steen Eiler. Experiencing Architecture. Cambridge: M.I.T., Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 1962. Print.

Special to The New York Times. “FINLANDIA HOUSE OPENS IN HELSINKI.” New York Times (1923-Current file): 55. Dec 06 1971. ProQuest. Web. 5 Feb. 2016 .

The Story of Finlandia Hall. YouTube. Käyttäjän Finlandia Hall Kanava, 16 Nov. 2015. Web. 06 Feb. 2016.

Venhola, Eero. Main Hall. Digital image. Finlandia Hall. Interaction16: Helinski, n.d. Web. 5 Feb. 2016.

Western Side of Finlandia Hall. Digital image. N.p., 16 Aug. 2004. Web. 06 Feb. 2016.