The Kauttua Ironworks: A deep-dive into Alvar Aalto’s architecture
By Ndéla Faye | Photos: Tomi Glad / Glad Media Oy
The history of the Kauttua Ironworks can be traced back over 330 years, which makes it one of Finland’s oldest industrial sites. The Ironworks are a must-visit for architecture buffs from around the world, as the area is home to hotels, saunas and houses designed by renowned Finnish architect Alvar Aalto.
The Kauttua Ironworks can be described in four words: nature, history, art and architecture. The Ironworks area, located in the Eura region of western Finland, is compact, but packed full of a variety of services and attractions. From hotels to museums, cafés, restaurants and shops, there are plenty of things to do and experience. The Kauttua Ironworks is a cultural heritage site, protected by the Finnish Heritage Agency.
The iconic Ironworks was built around an iron industry dating back more than 330 years and, in the 20th century, the area also became known for its paper industry. In addition to the ironworks area itself, visitors can explore the local architecture, exhibitions, cafés and restaurants. In the summer, the area hosts a wide range of exhibitions, and the central Tallinmäki square is a bustling must-see. The Kauttua Ironworks is open to visitors all-year-round, and there is plenty to explore during the autumn, winter and spring too.
Tracing the footsteps of Alvar Aalto
The ironworks area is best-known for its architecture; from the red ochre of the ironworks to the modernism of Alvar Aalto, who worked in Kauttua between 1937 and 1946. His first job was designing the town plan, which covered the historic industrial area, as well as the surrounding area and housing. Kauttua was set to become a stage where Aalto could exhibit a new era in architecture. The Eura region is part of the Alvar Aalto Cities Network, which includes some 40 Alvar Aalto Cities from around the world, defined as being significant Alvar Aalto architectural sites.
Aalto designed the streets and buildings to match the forms of the surrounding nature. The most prominent of the Alvar Aalto sites is the Terraced House building, built in 1938, which tourists can still visit. “The Terraced House at the Kauttua Ironworks is a perfect example of the architect’s desire to integrate buildings into the natural environment: the multi-storey residential building adapts to the slope it’s situated on, so the entrance of each apartment is at ground level,” says Sirpa Wahlqvist, cultural manager at the municipality of Eura.
In addition to hotels, a manor house and an apartment hotel, accommodation is also available in Villa Aalto, which is the former residence of female office employees, or in the other cosy rooms of the beautiful Ironworks area. “What makes Kauttua unique is that here, you can live and breathe Alvar Aalto’s architecture, as well as the area’s rich broader history,” Wahlqvist says.
A haven of cultural experiences
The region is renowned for its herbs and fresh local produce. “From à la carte dining experiences to trying out local delicacies, there is plenty to see and experience here. The Aalto Riverside Sauna, designed by Alvar and his wife Aino, is a one-of-a-kind experience, where visitors can combine Finnish sauna and delicious home-cooked food and designer furniture. There are a number of relaxing herbal treatments available, and visitors can take a dip in the river, or enjoy soaking in an outdoor hot tub,” Wahlqvist explains.
There are also a number of guided walking tours available; perhaps the most famous of which is the City Nomad walking tour. “The best way to get a thorough insight into the Ironworks is to go on a guided walking tour. Led by a trained local guide, visitors will learn about the Ironworks’ history from the 1600s to the present day. Pre-booked individual and group tours are organised all year round,” she continues. “All the businesses in the Ironworks region are proud of their rich cultural heritage, and we are proud to show visitors what our community is all about.”
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