Säynätsalo Town Hall is a multifunctional building complex consisting of two main buildings organized around a central courtyard; U-shaped council chamber and town hall with administrative offices and a public library with apartments. The town hall was designed by Finnish architect Alvar Aalto for the municipality of Seinatsalu (merged with the municipality of Jyväskylä in 1993) in Central Finland. Aalto received the order after a project competition in 1949, and construction was completed in December 1951.
The town hall is considered one of the most important buildings designed by Aalto in his career.
In 1944, Aalto received an order to design and implement a city plan for Seynatsalo, a small factory town founded around the woodworking plants of Johan Parviisen Techtaat, which has been operated by Enso-Gutzeit (now part of Stora Enso), with headquarters in Helsinki, since 1946. The town hall will be built later, after Aalto has won the government approved competition for its design. Aalto built the building on the wooded slope of Xainatsalo Hill, creating a three-storey multipurpose building surrounding the raised courtyard.
The design of the town hall was influenced by both Finnish folk architecture and the humanistic Italian Renaissance. It was the Italian Renaissance, from which Aalto drew inspiration in the arrangement of the courtyard, which served as the basis for the name of his original competition work called "Curia". While the main program of the building is enclosed in a massive brick shell, the courtyard is limited to a glazed circulation space that can be connected to a model of Piazza with arcade frames .
For Aalto, it was important that the design reflect democracy and the relationship between people and government, so it included a large public space together with sections dedicated to the public.
The town hall is crowned by a council hall, a double height space topped with butterfly farms designed by Aalto. The farms support both the roof and the ceiling, creating an air stream to prevent condensation in winter and heat in summer. The butterfly farm eliminates the need for several intermediate farms. It also calls for medieval and traditional styles. The Council Hall can be accessed from the main entrance hall by a ramp below, which rounds the main structure of the tower under the windows next to the ribbons.
Aalto has limited its material sky to those dominated by bricks, with an emphasis on wood and copper. Although Aalto practiced at the same time as the modernist architects Le Corbusier and others, he rejected machine aesthetics for much of his architecture. Instead, he viewed his buildings as organisms made up of individual cells. This principle prompted Aalto to use traditional building materials, such as bricks, which by their nature are cellular. The bricks were even laid a little independently to create a dynamic and lively surface due to the shadows.
The massive brick shell is interspersed with periods of vertical shading in the form of wooden columns, which resemble the environment of Xainatsalo in a densely planted area with trees. Winfried Nerdinger claims that "[Aalto] avoided too perfect a mechanical appearance. To this end, he insisted that the bricks did not fit exactly in the plane. The result is a living, natural surface that acquires sculptural quality in the light.
Another distinctive feature of Säynätsalo is the grass staircase, which complements the traditional set of stairs adjoining the tower council halls. Grass stairs also evokes ancient Greek and Italian architecture, creating a form that resembles a simple amphitheater.
Originally, the hall was planned as a multifunctional space, which would include public offices and meeting rooms, private apartments, stores, a bank, and a library. The public spaces are concentrated on the second floor on the western side of the building, surrounding the courtyard and leading to the council hall. Apartments occupy the first and second floors of the eastern part.
Since its initial construction, most of the multifunctional spaces have been converted to accommodate the needs of the office.