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Seinäjoki is justifiably proud of its connection to Alvar Aalto. The internationally-renowned architect and designer was born in nearby Kuortane and designed the centrepiece of Seinäjoki, the “Alvar Aalto Ecclesiastical, Administrative & Cultural Centre”, known to locals as the Aalto Centre.

This is a collection of six buildings: Lakeuden Risti Church (1957), Town Hall, , Library, Parish buildings, Police & Court building and City Theatre (1987). It adorns the town centre, around which Seinäjoki continues to develop at an impressive pace. Conveniently, it covers a compact area, so it is easy to visit all of the buildings in one trip: Although there is so much to see in each one, maybe you should make it an overnight visit. There are many articles introducing the wonders of the Aalto Centre, so I thought I’d mention another Alvar Aalto building, located only 500m away, or a few minutes walk away…

Civil Guard Headquarters & Barracks of South Ostrobothnia After Finland’s Independence (1917) and Civil War (1918), the work of the Civil Guard continued and Barracks houses were built all over the country. This early example of Alvar Aalto’s buildings was designed in the early-1920’s and officially opened in 1926. It is a noticeable different style to his later works in Seinäjoki, more classical than brutalist. It was used in this capacity until after the Continuation War, during World War II, after which the Civil Guard was disbanded. The building was then used as a residential home, a school and a travel agency, in what was once a very rural-looking Seinäjoki. It was then repurposed once again and opened, in 1990, as an ongoing monument to the Civil Guard (Suojeluskunta) and the Lotta Svärd, a voluntary auxiliary paramilitary organisation for Finnish women. You will now find permanent exhibitions to both organisations in the main building.

The museum consists of three buildings: a green wooden main building, a whitewashed courtyard and a timber-framed outbuilding. The view from the street, as you walk past the building, reveal a neatly laid-out garden with an intriguing wooden pergola, both from Aalto’s original design, which encircles a statue of a Civil Guardsman. The main building is entered directly from the street, a few paces and up a few steps from Kauppakatu. As you notice the ornate decoration of the facade, be sure to look up into the eaves of the roof.

Entering into the ground (first) floor, you will find a semi-circular ballroom. While you walk round the exhibitions, you will notice the green and red theme of the exterior continues throughout the wood and plaster corridors and hallways, all of which display Alvar Aalto’s original furnishings and fittings. The main building hosts exhibitions about Civil Guard, the Lotta Svärd organisation and Jaegers. There is also a meeting room, an information desk and a museum shop. In the outbuilding, you will find an exhibition about  Mannerheim and the Seinäjoki headquarters, as well as the various sporting pursuits of the Civil Guard. The main building hosts exhibitions about Civil Guard, the Lotta Svärd organisation and Jaegers. There is also a meeting room, an information desk and a museum shop. In the outbuilding, you will find an exhibition about  Mannerheim and the Seinäjoki headquarters, as well as the various sporting pursuits of the Civil Guard.

There are not many photos available online, so virtual tour is not possible. The best way to view Aalto’s lesser known gem, is to make it part of your itinerary the next time (or even the first time) you Visit Seinäjoki.

Suojeluskunta ja Lotta Svärd -museo
Address: Kauppakatu 17, 60100 Seinäjoki

Additional reading:
Aalto in Seinäjoki
– several short documents in English at www.seinäjoki.fi
Details of Guided Tours of the Alvar Aalto centre and museum packages visit South Ostrobothnia Travel Service or contact by e-mail matkailu@epmatkailu.fi
Civil Guard on Wikipedia
Lotta Svärd on Wikipedia  

Additional Listening:
A Tour of Aalto Centre part 1  – Town Hall and Lakeuden Risti church
A Tour of Aalto Centre part 2  – City Theatre and the Libraries

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