Detmerode Church and Parish Centre
Aalto took part in a competition for a large church and parish center announced by Seinäjoki parish in 1951, sending in an entry marked ‘Lakeuksien risti’ (Cross of the Plains). Instead of placing the parish rooms under the church or in a smaller, separate building, as the other entrants had done, Aalto seized upon the big religious events commonly organized in Ostrobothnia in summer. He laid out a large piazza, sloping down towards the church and girded by the parish facilities, in front of the church’s main facade. This space-consuming solution obliged Aalto to exceed the prescribed construction limit by some twenty meters, which prevented the jury from awarding him a prize, but the jury awarded Aalto’s entry a purchase and recommended it as the basis for implementation. Aalto’s design also included, south of the church, a vicarage with apartments for the vicar and two chaplains.
In 1956 Aalto was commissioned to develop the plan further. The church was built between 1958 and 1960 and the large parish centre in front between 1964 and 1966. The main characteristics of the church complex are as follows: on the north side stands the campanile, 65 meters high. Visible from afar in the endless plains, it is the town’s symbol. The slightly wedge-shaped, symmetrical church interior is 47 meters long and provides seating for a congregation of 1,400. Despite the rudimentary aisles outside the bearing columns, the church speaks the language of modernism with the constructivist form of its columns, the freely formed wing of the pulpit, the cubist organ facade, the expressionist design of the chandeliers, and the merging of the vertical and the horizontal in the window system. The vestry lies behind the altar, and between it and the campanile is a tiny baptistery and wedding chapel with a stained-glass work by Aalto.
The parish center’s main divergence from the competition entry is the open staircase on an axis from the main facade of the church to the town hall square (built up later). This staircase separates the two wings of the building, which contain a large assembly hall, catering facilities for the congregation, a room for confirmation classes, a clubroom, offices, and apartments for employees. Both wings are from one to two storeys high, in brick rendered white.