The Aalto’s Campus is part of the main campus of University of Jyväskylä, Seminaarinmäki. The oldest part of Seminaarinmäki consists of the red brick buildings of the Jyväskylä teacher training college from the late 19th century by Konstantin Kiseleff. The red brick Aalto’s Campus, built for the Jyväskylä Institute of Pedagogics in the 1950s, was the second construction stage of Seminaarinmäki.
The planning competition for the new campus was held in 1951. Alvar Aalto’s office won first prize with the entry ‘Urbs’ and was commissioned to work out plans for the individual buildings on the basis of the winning entry. The extensive site on the grounds of the old teacher training college consists of a wide depression next to a pine-clad ridge near the centre of town. The Aalto’s office laid out a planted campus accessible only to pedestrians, with a sports field in the middle of the depression, leaving the late 19th-century college buildings higher up on the ridge. The new campus plan consisted of the main building, the teacher training school, the sports hall, the student restaurant Lozzi and the student dormitory. The construction of the Aalto’s Campus began in 1953 and continued until spring 1959.
The Aalto’s Campus buildings form a loose U pattern that begins on the north side of the campus. The main building, which is made up of a fan-shaped auditorium wing and a rectangular three-storey classroom and laboratory wing. The two sections are connected by a high hall containing an attractive Venetian staircase. The second and third storeys of the auditorium wing contain two adjacent auditoria separated by a sliding wall, which can be removed to make a large auditorium with 382 + 355 seats. The ground floor of the auditorium wing has generously glazed walls facing the entrance piazza and pine woods, making the vestibule a continuation of the forest.
Along the entrance, piazza are also the library building, and north-west of this the teacher training school from 1951-53. On the east side of the sports field is the teacher’s cafeteria in a small, separate pavilion connected with the student restaurant, which in turn connects with a dormitory building. On the west side of the sports field is the university’s indoor complex for gymnastics, sports and swimming.
The Aalto office designed the student union house Ilokivi was designed by the Aalto office as an addition to the 1950s after the original development was completed. Ilokivi was completed in 1965. On the south side of the campus is situated the Institute of Physical Education, also designed by the Aalto office. It was built in 1969-71. Differing from the red brick 1950’s campus, it has white painted plastering on the façades.
A comprehensive restoration of the main building, designed by Jyrki Iso-Aho and Päivi Vaheri from A-konsultit, was carried out in 2013–2017 in close collaboration with the Alvar Aalto Foundation and National Board of Antiquities. In the course of the project, the assembly hall ventilation system was upgraded, the roof and flooring were replaced and the windows refurbished. Internal walls added to the building in the intervening years were demolished to reinstate the original floor plan, and a new focus was created for the library foyer and main library space by creating direct access to adjoining spaces.
The design team were committed to retaining as many original structures, materials and items of furniture as possible. With regard to the flooring, this meant that each brick had to be individually lifted, numbered and cleaned before being relaid in their original slots, the floor structure beneath also having been replaced. All items of furniture by Alvar Aalto, Aino Marsio-Aalto, Maija Heikinheimo and Ilmari Tapiovaara were restored. The results belie the scale and scope of the project, giving the impression that much of the building remains unchanged and in its original state.
The refurbishment of the Main Building of University of Jyväskylä is a Finlandia Prize for Architecture 2019 finalist.