Alvar Aalto - Finland
Student Union Building
Seminaarinkatu 15, Jyväskylä
1964 - 1965

In 1950 Alvar Aalto took part in the general planning competition for the Jyväskylä Institute of Pedagogics. His proposal 'Urbs' was awarded the first prize at the end of May 1951, and the achitect was immediately commissioned to begin working on the plans of the various buildings. His proposal, reminiscent of some of his earlier projects, consists of several individual buildings, which are arranged in a U-shape, respecting the existing buildings of the complex. The central space, which is framed by the complex, is accessible only for pedestrians. Located in a ridge of pine trees close to the centre of the town, Alvar Aalto designed another piece of architecture in tense relation to the surrounding nature. Construction of the complex started in 1953, and within three years a major part of the complex was concluded, even if Alvar Aalto worked for several further years to design various buildings and additions. All buildings of the Jyväskylä Institute of Pedagogics expose Alvar Aalto's emphasis on materiality, combining white walls with wood, brick and glass. The whole complex contains buildings for various functions and was initially built for teacher training. In 1966 the college of education became a university.

The Student Union Building, finished in 1965, was designed for the University of Jyväskylä Student Union, which previously had its premises in the Lozzi canteen building. Construction of the building became necessary as additional rooms were needed for the local student unions and for religious activities. In addition the Student Union Building allows for more space holding festive events. As a special feature, the building contains an 8-lane bowling alley. In comparision with early sketches, showing large festive halls, the realized building is significantly smaller. The building was taken into use in 1964, when construction was still under way. An second stage was intended by Alvar Aalto, but unhappily this was never realized, since the student union did not have the financial possibilities needed for the implementation.

The Student Union building is located on a slope and has a height of three storeys. As most buildings on the campus, the Student Union appears as a brick volume on the exterior and is covered with a flat roof. The main entrance to the building is on the first floor. The first floor is occupied by the Student Union restaurant and a kitchen, while the ground floor serves mainly for storage and serving spaces. Extensive alterations in the Student Union building were carried out in 1978 - 1981 by Alvar Aalto & Co.