Helsinki’s city centre plan 1959–72

In 1959 the city of Helsinki commissioned academician Alvar Aalto (1898–1976) to devise a master plan for the city centre. The Helsinki city centre plan became one of Aalto’s most extensive projects, on which he worked for over a decade. It covered the whole Töölö Bay area. In the north the plan connected to Pasila, in the south to the Kamppi area.

Aalto’s aim was to create a dignified centre for the capital of independent Finland, so that the surroundings of the Parliament building and the residential neighbourhoods on the one hand and the growing traffic flows and their parking requirements on the other could both be harmoniously accommodated. In Aalto’s plan, pedestrian movement, vehicle traffic and rail transport were partly on different levels: ground level was primarily reserved for people on foot. The southern end of Töölö Bay and the view opening up from the Parliament were reserved for a fan-shaped, terraced central square on top of the goods yard and car park. For the popular Hesperia park, Aalto envisaged a series of public buildings that would be beautifully mirrored in the water but so that the open view from the park to the bay would be protected.

The city centre plans were never adopted for developing into official plans by the city even though Aalto produced several improved versions. In the course of time the plans were rejected. The only elements that were ever realized were the Sähkötalo in the Kamppi neighbourhood and the Finlandia Hall.

Image: Alvar Aalto: Plan for the centre of Helsinki, sketch of cultural facilities on the shore of Töölönlahti Bay, 1964 © Alvar Aalto Museum