An Alvar Aalto icon in the Finnish capital of Lapland gets a new lease of life

An Alvar Aalto icon in the Finnish capital of Lapland gets a new lease of life

A significant public building by Alvar Aalto in the Finnish capital of Lapland has reopened after an extensive but sensitive renovation.

Lappia Hall was finished in 1975, and was the last building the great Finnish architect saw completed before his death a year later. It is part of a trio of public buildings that Aalto designed around a new square for the city of Rovaniemi, which suffered much damage during WWII, and sits alongside the City Hall and the library.

The building holds Rovaniemi Theatre – the northernmost theatre of the European Union – the Finnish Broadcasting Company, and the Music School of Lapland. They are all housed under a distinctive wavy roof, which was intended to reference the mountains nearby.

Lappia Hall’s 20m Euro restoration has been carried out by Helsinki architectural firm A-konsultit. ’The premises were in an overall need of a total repair after 40 years of use,’ says architect Johannes von Martens, and he was briefed to clean up the foyers and other public spaces and bring them ’back to their original pure Aalto look.’

The most radical ’falsification’ A-konsultit made was to paint a formerly white ceiling a deep blue, part of their efforts to transform the extension of the congress hall into a separate studio theatre. The main auditorium, Tieva Hall, now boasts lots of modern theatre technology, ’which we happily succeeded in integrating into Aalto’s architecture without bringing any disturbance to its appearance,’ says von Martens. 

Outside, the western entrance and approach have been re-landscaped into a planted park setting. ’And we have re-established the originally intended unbroken pedestrian piazza concept, stretching from the entrance of the theatre to the entrance of the City Hall,’ he adds.

’The Aalto Civic Centre of Rovaniemi is quite a remarkable ensemble up in the Arctic Circle,’ says von Martens. ’At least the restoration of Lappia Hall will contribute to its surviving, carrying on Aalto’s legacy to future generations.

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