La Dolce Vita: a Finnish show explores Alvar Aalto's summer houses

La Dolce Vita: a Finnish show explores Alvar Aalto's summer houses
Villa Flora in Alajärvi is a modest summer villa, designed by Aino Aalto - Alvar Alto's first wife - in 1926.
(Image credit: Aino or Alvar Aalto)

When it comes to holiday bolthole settings, Finland has some of the best. Rich forests, fresh air and cool lakes make up for an invigorating landscape to relax and recharge - as well as the perfect scenery for some of the country's most striking modern architecture. The Finnish countryside is home to some of Alvar Aalto's (opens in new tab) best work.

This is also the focus of the Alvar Aalto Museum's (opens in new tab) latest show, La dolce vita - Summer paradises by Alvar Aalto, on display in time for the 2015 Alvar Aalto Symposium, which took place last weekend. Looking at the grand master's vacation house commissions, from one-off villas for friends and acquaintances to smaller cottages, country clubs and humble huts, built work and competition proposals, this exhibition has it all.

Tapping into a seminal page in the country's architectural history, this theme is also a very important one in the Finnish society's development in the past century. 'In a hundred years, Finland has become a land of half a million summer homes,' explains Alvar Aalto Museum Curator Mari Murtoniemi. 'From the very beginning, Finns have sought inspiration for building from various sources, including the summer homes of artists and architects. There were even architectural competitions set up to create drawings for summer villas and weekend cottages.'

The show presents architectural photography, drawings and scale models of selected houses, as well as rare footage of Aalto's family home videos, capturing them on holiday in the 1920s. On display at the museum's main gallery in the Finnish town of Jyväskylä, La dolce vita celebrates the traditional Finnish way of spending the summer through a tour of Aalto's subtly powerful designs.  

La Dolce Vita: a Finnish show explores Alvar Aalto's summer houses

It was the Aalto's family own vacation house. Photography: Aino or Alvar Aalto, Alvar Aalto Museum / Artek Collection

(Image credit: Aino or Alvar Aalto)

La Dolce Vita: a Finnish show explores Alvar Aalto's summer houses

A building for the staff at Finnish manufacturer Enso-Gutzeit, this Country Club was built in Helsinki in 1952.

(Image credit: Eino Mäkinen, courtesy )

La Dolce Vita: a Finnish show explores Alvar Aalto's summer houses

The Country Club was a project dedicated to leisure, but Aalto had also worked on the company's main Helsinki Headquarters.

(Image credit: Jari Jetsonen)

La Dolce Vita: a Finnish show explores Alvar Aalto's summer houses

Local magazine Aitta organised a design competition in 1928. The results were published as a book, titled 'Halpoja kesäasuntoja' ('Low-cost summer homes'). Aalto´s winning proposal (called 'Konsoli') appeared on the book's cover. The original watercolour by an unknown artist is in the collection of Museum of Finnish Architecture.

(Image credit: press)

La Dolce Vita: a Finnish show explores Alvar Aalto's summer houses

Alvar Aalto designed a villa for professor Päivö Oksala's family in Korpilahti, on an island in Lake Päijänne in the late 1960s. 

(Image credit: Jari Jetsonen)

La Dolce Vita: a Finnish show explores Alvar Aalto's summer houses

The Insulite Company of Finland built the Weekend Cabinet, a cottage designed by Aalto for the 1937 Paris World Exhibition. Drawing from Alvar Aalto Museum drawing archive

(Image credit: press)

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Alvar Aalto Museum
Alvar Aallon katu 7
Jyväskylä, Finland

Ellie Stathaki is the Architecture Editor at Wallpaper*. She trained as an architect at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki in Greece and studied architectural history at the Bartlett in London. Now an established journalist, she has been a member of the Wallpaper* team since 2006, visiting buildings across the globe and interviewing leading architects such as Tadao Ando and Rem Koolhaas. Ellie has also taken part in judging panels, moderated events, curated shows and contributed in books, such as The Contemporary House (Thames & Hudson, 2018) and Glenn Sestig Architecture Diary (2020).