The Kauttua Ironworks: Where Finnish art, design and architecture meet
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. Today, the area is home to hotels, saunas and houses designed by the renowned Finnish architect Alvar Aalto, making it a must-visit destination for fans of Finnish architecture, design and art from around the world.
Located in the Eura region of western Finland, the Kauttua 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. 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.
Today, the Ironworks is home to a vibrant community of around 200 permanent residents and a number of small local businesses. The Ironworks has its own unique atmosphere of a tiny village steeped in history. In addition to the ironworks area itself, visitors can explore the local architecture, art exhibitions, cafés and restaurants, as well as the region’s beautiful nature throughout the year. The new Visitor Centre is a meeting place for all residents and tourists in Kauttua, and its exhibition presents the history of Kauttua from the birth of the village to the present day.
In the summer, the area is a bustling place, with a number of cultural events, including concerts as well as art exhibitions organised in conjunction with Rauma Art Museum. This is a place where visitors get to experience some of Finland’s most iconic architecture, art exhibitions and design first-hand.
Tracing the footsteps of Alvar Aalto
Kauttua is the place where Finnish architect and designer Alvar Aalto was given free hands to master his craft. 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.
There are plenty of places to choose from when it comes to accommodation, which is available throughout the year. 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
Any visit to Finland wouldn’t be complete without going to a sauna, and Kauttua has visitors covered on that front too: 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.
The region is renowned for its beautiful nature and the nearby lake, and there are plenty of outdoor activities available, such as canoeing on the lake, to explore the region and its untouched forests and stunning lakeside.
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,” Wahlqvist says and 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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