Tuesday, June 11, 2013



Alvar Aalto, a Finnish architect sometimes called the "father of modern architecture", is renowned for the quality of its architecture, inserted within the Modernist Movement but full of warmth, superb handling of scale and the materials and respect for the surrounding context . Among his best known works are the Academic Bookstore, the Finlandia Hall,  the Finnish Pavilion for the Paris Exposition of 1937 or the City Hall of Saynastalo .

Less known is, however, his works as interior and furniture designer. This post focuses precisely on the Savoy Restaurant in Helsinki, which still retain some of his original designs.

View from the old terrace, before being covered with glass, for obvious climatic reasons ( Helsinki is at latitude 60)

Opened in 1937, the Savoy is a luxury restaurant located at the top of the Industrial building, which was not designed by Aalto.

It consists of two areas, one indoor area and the terrace overlooking the Esplanadi Park, one of the most important public spaces of Helsinki. In addition, there are some exclusive banqueting cabinets.

Lobby at the restaurant entrance.

Originally the restaurant interior was designed by Alvar Aalto and his wife Aino, in collaboration with textile artist Dora Jung. The construction was carried out by Artek Oy.

Views and details of the living room

View to the terrace
Esplanade Park View from the terrace.

Despite being a luxury restaurant, Aalto rejects the glitz and instead he choose simple , austere, minimalist style, creating a warm and intimate atmosphere of elegant proportions. Among the designed elements are the club chairs by Aino Aalto and the luminaires  by Alvar Aalto.

Detail of the luminaires

The restaurant also contains a display of the famous Savoy vase, designed in 1936, which consists of a hyperbolic curve surface which folds sinuously along two similar curvatures of different radii.

The design, as Aalto was inspired by the Finnish Eskimos girls' breeches. In the words of Professor Jan Michl, "it represents the qualities of the quintessential Finnish design: originality, openness and aesthetic sophistication."

The Savoy vases were placed on each table and allowed the flowers to be arranged in different ways.

Despite its name, the vases were not made exclusively for the restaurant, but were part of a collection for Karhula and Iittala factory for  the Paris International Exposition in 1937. In fact, the shape of the vase is similar to Aalto's Finnish Pavilion built for that Expo.

Finland Pavilion, by Alvar Aalto. Paris Exposition, 1937

Since the first vases were made using wooden molds, their surfaces were slightly more textured than they are today. A curious fact is that originally, after the glass hardened, the wooden mold was burned in order to release the vase.

Currently the Savoy vase rights have been acquired by the restaurant, and it is now called Aalto Vase.

Left: detail of the floor. Right: the restaurant was so expensive that we could only afford to eat a dessert (it was such a treat!). In the background you can see the Aalto vase, still used on each table.


With Manu and Moumita, great friends and hosts with whom we ventured to explore a bit of architecture in Helsinki. 


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  3. Good write-up and pictures, but please, there have never been Eskimos in Europe.

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