The dark blue ceramic tiles on the City Hall’s facade glimmer and change their appearance in different light conditions. ”The facade must be that of the Seinäjoki City Hall and of nowhere else”, Aalto wrote in his reasoning for the material choice. In the tall, tower-like assembly hall of the city council, the councillors’ seats are placed radially across the room. The same layout is repeated in the building’s facade. The west wing of the City Hall was originally created as a living space and converted into office space in the 1970s and 80s.
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We are in the year 1961. Trees sway around Anneli and Matti-Alvari, singing the wind’s greetings. Matti-Alvari sits happily in his pram and laughs each time that the wind tries to carry away his mother’s brown wool hat.
‘My goodness, what a wind!’ Anneli cries. A sly gust surprises her and snatches the hat off her head. Anneli’s carefully twisted bun falls open and her hair dances in the wind. Matti-Alvari finds this so amusing that he almost falls out of his pram.
Anneli hastily runs after the hat, her hair fluttering in the wind, desperately pulling the pram along behind her. The metal pram rattles over the gravel road. The hat comes to rest against the wall of a work site at a bend in the road. At last, Anneli gets her hat back. She quickly sets the hat back on her head, her cheeks a little flushed from the sprint.
Anneli raises her gaze up from the ground and sees in front of her a building, the progress of which she has followed with great interest. The work site is for the construction of the Seinäjoki City Hall, and the designer of the building, selected through an architectural competition, is the Academician Alvar Aalto.
Industrious workmen are busy laying dark blue ceramic rods, which were made at the Arabia factory, into individual settings on the façade of the building. The rods stand up straight in their settings like tin soldiers. Further along, stretches of installed settings are visible. This would be one of the first times that these blue rods designed by Alvar Aalto are used one such a scope to decorate a façade, Anneli recalls hearing. (the story continues after the illustration)
Aalto got the inspiration for the tiling on his trip to Baghdad, where he had been invited to design the main post office and art museum. Matti-Alvari also gazes spellbound at the building façade nearing completion, pointing at it with his finger. It’s impossible not to notice the façade, so intense and beautiful is the shade of the dark blue clinker. It might well become the City Hall’s most recognisable and memorable feature.
It’s been said that there will be a theatre and adult education centre in the basement level of the City Hall. Anneli was glad to hear it; things for the edification of the people are important to her. The building would become a familiar place to Anneli and Matti-Alvari anyway — there was also going to be a maternity clinic and dentist’s office there.
Just like Lakeuden Risti, the City Hall had also gotten its own embankment to break up the flat – to some, boring – plain. Anneli and Matti-Alvari continue on their way from the ‘clinker factory’ toward the church, when they notice an extraordinary sight along School Street. A shortish gentleman is making eyeball measurements over an upraised plate toward the Lakeuden Risti tower, hat askew on the back of his head. Four beefy men can barely hold the plate upright, the wind is so strong. It looks like the man is trying to see that the thick wall of the parish centre that will be attached to the church will not block the view of the church tower. From his gestures, it seems that the height is correct. In that moment, with a start, Anneli recognises the gentleman.
Text: Marjo Kamila and Kari Hernesniemi (Oddmob)
Images: Kari Hernesniemi (Oddmob)
Read the whole story from here.