Saynatsalo Town Hall
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Architect Alvar Aalto
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Location Saynatsalo, Finland   map
Date 1949 competition, built 1952   timeline
Building Type government offices, city hall, including public library
 Construction System brick, wood
Climate cold
Context small town center
Style Modern
Notes Branching rafters in council chamber. Courtyard connected back to landscape by grass steps.


Photo, the landmark council chamber

Photo, the grassy courtyard

Photo, entry between library and council chambers





Plan Drawing

Section Drawing

Section Drawing

Site Plan Drawing

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Discussion Saynatsalo Town Hall Commentary

"It is intimate and idiosyncratic, with an unusual layout directly responsive to the genius loci. The various buildings forming the group—municipal offices, council chamber, library and officials' residences—are planned round a courtyard which is artificially raised above the surrounding wooded countryside by using the material excavated for the buildings' foundations. Gaps between the buildings allow access to the courtyard, from which all the buildings are entered, up flights of steps, and also allow views towards distant lakes and the penetration of the low northern sun. Materials are dark red brick, wood and copper, and the abruptly varied roof shapes, seen through closely planted trees, cause the whole group to be absorbed into the rugged landscape and to appear as a romantic intensification of the scene in which it is set down."

— J.M. Richards. 800 Years of Finnish Architecture. Vancouver: David and Charles, 1978. p154.


Built in 1950-1952 following a competition held in 1949 for a one-industry town founded by the Enzo-Gutzeit wood-products company.

— from J.M. Richards. 800 Years of Finnish Architecture. Vancouver: David and Charles, 1978.

Sources on Saynatsalo Town Hall

Francis D. K. Ching. Architecture: Form, Space, and Order. New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold, 1979. ISBN 0-442-21535-5. LC 79-18045. NA2760.C46. library facade perspective drawing, p29. — A nice graphic introduction to architectural ideas. Updated 1996 edition available at

Roger H. Clark and Michael Pause. Precedents in Architecture. New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold, 1985. drawings and diagrams, p8-9. — Updated edition available at

David Dunster, ed. Alvar Aalto. London: St. Martin's Press, 1978. drawings, photos, p78-79.

Peter Gossel and Gabriele Leuthauser. Architecture in the Twentieth Century. Germany: Benedikt Taschen Verlag, 1991. ISBN 3-8228-0550-5.

Donald Corner and Jenny Young, University of Oregon. Slide from photographers' collection. PCD.2350.1012.1143.59, exterior photo looking across courtyard, from under gateway trellis. PCD.2350.1012.1143.65, exterior photo looking across courtyard at the vertical mass of the council chamber, from near the top of the grass steps. PCD.2350.1012.1143.60, exterior photo showing main steps up to courtyard, with town library on the left, and council chamber block on the right.

Kevin Matthews. The Great Buildings Collection on CD-ROM. Artifice, 2001. ISBN 0-9667098-4-5.— Available at  Find books about Saynatsalo Town Hall


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