The respect and intention for the preservation of Aalto’s work and legacy has been taken into account since the early stage of the design. Coherent with this direction the choice of materiality has been fundamental to redefine the space in between the two museums. The volume interiorizes now two of the existing museums walls. The new addition juxtaposes light color clay bricks in grid pattern for the floors and the circulation elements to the original masonry bricks walls in a way to match the colors but announce the new building with a different texture.


Architecture aims to create a relationship with its users. The design aims to Aalto’s idea that architecture must take a deeper role in “humanizing cultural factors”. The visitor will be surrounded by the exterior environment that brings a sense of comfort and tranquility, while shopping in the new space. Furthermore the effect of porosity will be perceived from inside through a series of layers, not only materials, but with the phenomenological components of this architecture. Three main conditions of lights are established, the unfiltered light through the curtain wall, the diffused northern light of the skylight, and the zenithal light of the translucent glass roof that serves as a seating area on the roof garden of the Central Museum of Finland.


  • PROGRAM: Museum Visitor Center
  • CLIENT: Alvar Aalto Foundation & City of Jyväskylä, Finland
  • PARTNER IN CHARGE: Alessandro Orsini & Nick Roseboro
  • PROJECT ARCHITECT: Fernando Wang
  • TEAM:  Giorgia Gerardi, Andrea Debilio, Richard W. Off
  • CONSULTANTS: Stephen Melville (Format Engineers)
  • RENDERS: Architensions

“For Architecture to take a deeper role as a humanizing cultural factor, we need works cast in matter itself – no words can help. We need it to have monumental force that gives man hope, confidence, and self-discipline – we need it to have social awareness and compassion for the human tragedy. Architecture must be deeply rooted in place and circumstance; it requires a delicate sense of form; it must support human emotions”.

— Alvar Aalto, Eliel Saarinen’s State Funeral Speech, 1950



The design for the extension aims to merge the edged angled geometries of the existing Alvar Aalto Museum and the Museum of Central Finland with the fluidity of the movement of the connection paths that will make the two institutions function around a new pivotal public space. The smooth lines in plan derive from the nature inspired organic lines in Aalto’s work and product design.

Our inspiration for the design concept can be found on Aalto’s text “Architecture in Finland” written in 1941. Aalto specifies that a building is like a living organism that can adapt to expansion and change. Therefore instead of imposing a volume, a light sloped canopy, constructed with wood columns and glulam beams, dematerializes its presence, merging the front landscape with the back courtyard and the topography. The courtyard, accessible from the lower level, has been created with the intention of providing a new egress and to give natural light to staff related areas such as the new storage space and technical room.


At the urban scale a maximum level of porosity has been achieved to transform the new shopping / connecting addition into a social condenser and a connecting hub between the hill where the topography rapidly drops and the front plaza of the new Ruusupuisto University building. The new building creates an alternative access point to both museums connecting them in a north-south axis, while the transparent curtain wall absorbs the surrounding, fusing interiors with the landscape in an east-west axis direction.


The structural concept is resolved with the use of tall thin, structural steel columns cladded in wood, in a semi-random ‘natural’ arrangement on plan supporting a timber grillage roof of varying depth.

The roof structure presents a regular pattern in plan but varies in depth according to the level of combined axial and bending stress in the system under loading. Our analysis allows for the structure to automatically deepen itself and allocate material to where it’s most needed. This creates an efficient, cost effective and striking roof form but one which is still practical to construct as the angles between timbers and the setting out are consistent. The soffit of the roof will seem to subtly ‘billow’ in a natural way. This technique is reminiscent of the pioneering creative structural design of the 1950’s by Pier Luigi Nervi and others.

Each of the glulam roof timbers is 200mm wide and the depths vary from 450mm to 850mm. The choice of timber for the roof structure goes in the direction of lower cost and practicality as well as low embodied energy. Timber is a material with a substantially lower carbon footprint than steel or concrete and available in large quantities in Finland.

The geometric pattern of the roof has a dual purpose of ensuring that it can act as a stiff plate or diaphragm spreading the wind load on the tall facade to vertical braced frames hidden within the sidewalls adjacent to the existing building. These ensure the stability of the extension building and keep it separate from the older structures. There are no load-bearing walls within the internal circulation space. The columns supporting the roof are tall and slender wood cladded steel columns fixed to the glulam timber roof with hidden bolted plate connections for visual subtlety. They are braced or propped against internal floors wherever possible to reduce their effective length.

At the time of this analysis the ground conditions are unknown. It will be important to use foundations that take load way from the interface with the existing structure, as it is unclear whether these have sufficient capacity. In summary, the structural design aims for a lightweight extension, which is robust enough to support heavy snow and wind, loads but which was innovative its exploitation of material and which kept the embodied energy to a minimum.