Saynatsalo Town Hall
Parviaisentie 9


Alvar Aalto 1949-1952


The Finnish architect Alvar Aalto completed Saynatsalo Town Hall in 1952 after winning a 1949 design competition put on by the town of Saynatsalo. Aalto had already designed the planning for the 3,000-person town in 1947, and proposed the town hall competition, which he later won under the pseudonym Curia (curia in Latin literally translates to a "free association of men" and was also the meeting location for the Roman Senate). The city center does not just serve as a meeting area for council members; it also houses a library, at one point a bank and pharmacy, and guest rooms (available to rent - see below). Aalto wanted the town hall to serve as a gathering point for everyone, not just those elected, thereby furthering his democratic ideals.



The building itself is an elevated courtyard plan with two main entrances up to the interior: a formal series of steps made of granite to the east, and another set of grass terraces on the western end (roped off in 2005). The site, sloping upward to the north, allows for a series of inhabitable levels. On the ground floors are parts of the library and other various municipalities for use by the townspeople. Ascending further upward, one finds a grass courtyard punctuated by various brick or clay tube patios, as well as a sunken pool of water, ready to cool off your feet. Most of the circulation for the above-ground offices is done behind the glass areas around the courtyard, avoding the need for dark corridors. By going up even further via a set of stairs to the east, you can reach the council chamber and view the spider-like wooden roof trusses in the ceiling.



The material of choice for most of the town hall is unplastered red brick. Due to the harshness of the Finnish climate, Aalto chooses to use the hardened clay on the exterior for its longevity in a building made to last as a monument for the town. By bringing the brick inside the council chambers and floor surrounding the courtyard, the architect succeeds in further blurring the boundaries between inside and outside, between townsfolk and council members. Also at play are Aalto's familiar wood screens and white plastered walls, serving to break down the scale around the raised courtyard.



One of the most notable pieces of the architectural whole is the soaring, angled form of the council chamber. When questioned about the height of the gathering area, Aalto quickly responded with:

"Gentlemen! The world's most beautiful and famous town hall, that of Siena, has a council chamber 16 meters high. I propose we build one that is 17 meters."

Though large in scale, the chamber is broken down by the low horizontal pieces surrounding it, acting as the tip of a mountain peeking through the clouds.


The town hall serves as an indication of Aalto's close relationship with the landscape of Finland as well as its inhabitants.


Taylor Medlin 2007

(updated 2011)



How to visit


From Jyvaskyla in a car: Take 9/E63 south out of the city. Get off on the Saynatsalontie road exit. Take a right onto Saynatsalontie at the end of the curved exit ramp. Saynatsalontie will turn into Kinkomaantie. You'll cross over a body of water and at the T intersection take a let onto Parviaisentie. The town hall is about a mile further down on your left. Zoom out (-) or in (+) on the map below to get your bearings.


From Jyvaskyla City Center on foot: Buses 16 and 21 run every thirty minutes and go to Saynatsalo (to the south). Takes around a half hour to get to Saynatsalo by bus.




Saynatsalo Town Hall is open to the public Mon-Fri 8:30am - 3:30pm with a voluntary admission fee. At weekends and after office hours it is open only for groups' guided tours, by prior arrangement. Groups should make appointments well in advance.


There are also two guest rooms available to rent. They are single-bed, with an extra bed available upon request, equipped with a fridge, coffee maker, stove, sheets and kitchen ware. Rooms share toilet and shower facilities. Price per room is 40 euros a night (extra bed 20 euros a night).


For more information please call +358 14 266 1526, fax +358 14 266 1528, email, or visit


The City of Jyvaskyla provides a beautifully presented virtual tour of the building at