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Designed by Alvar Aalto, the Helsinki Hall of Culture is an essential part of the capital’s culture and nostalgia. Only very few people know that it’s also possible to enjoy a comprehensive and affordable lunch in this unique cultural milieu.
In the 1950s, the construction site for the Hall of Culture attracted volunteers from far away. The builders, the townspeople, local activists and enthusiasts wanted to make Alvar Aalto’s building their own. A shared space where everybody would have room to gather and be comfortable.
The dream came true! The Hall of Culture is still about people and events, cherishing different encounters and unique spaces, according to Executive Director, Minna Nyman.
”“It’s wonderful if your job involves offering experiences to people.” Nyman sighs, “And our crew are really passionate about making things happen.”
Photo: The Hall of Culture archives; the Hall of Culture staff. Nyman (the third on the left in the back row) moved to the Hall of Culture in 2012, having previously worked at the Lahti Sibelius Hall.
Prearranged house tours or a spontaneous lunch
The Alvar Aalto Foundation organises house tours at the Hall of Culture, where the architecture and history of the building is highlighted in different spaces. Hanna Pärnä, a tour guide, says that the details of the Hall of Culture are best seen on site.
“Aalto, the architect, has been very creative about the building’s needs, both regarding the design of the different rooms as well as the materials.” Pärnä says.
Due to a variety of events, these premises cannot be explored spontaneously. A house tour should be booked in advance, either through the Foundation or directly at the Hall of Culture. The lower lobby, the restaurant and the Aalto Hall which can accommodate about 1,500 people are accessible to everyone.
Tours do not include inspiringly decorated meeting rooms, 10 in total, ranging from a lecture hall for a hundred people to a meeting room for four people. These rooms are used every week for meetings and family gatherings, graduations and birthdays. The rental prices are very reasonable as is usual in Helsinki.
The Hall of Culture is located within walking distance from the cultural sites of Töölö, next to the amusement park Linnanmäki and adjacent to the trendy Kallio. The Hall is easily accessible by public transport, on foot, by city bike or by car.
And best of all, according to Nyman, food cooked in the Hall’s kitchen is excellent:
“The varied and hearty salad table is our “crowning glory”, praised in almost all feedback. We also have two hot meal options every day, with vegetarian food always available as well.”
For groups and families with children, for example, the Hall of Culture is a great destination. Buses can stop right at the front door, and the spacious restaurant can seat one hundred people. Thanks to automatic doors and ramps, the restaurant is accessible with wheelchairs and prams.
The house of a thousand stories and old legends
The Hall has a convincing history of performers: Jimi Hendrix, Metallica, AC/DC, Queen and Lady Gaga... The list is breath-taking.
When the Hall of Culture was reopened in 2013 after extensive renovations, people openly shared their stories about the building. Many said that they had first met their spouse at the Hall’s dance events in the 1960s. Various concert memories were also heard. Tickets to Jimi Hendrix’ and AC/DC’s concerts, and many other shared memories have been given to the Hall of Culture for safe-keeping.
According to Nyman, versatility, openness and coziness are the key elements of the Hall of Culture. For example, the versatility of the Hall of Culture is particularly obvious in Instagram stories.
“At one time, there was an MMA match, then a stand-up event on the following day, and then a spiritual event.”
The old architecture is flexible enough for a wide range of purposes and requirements at the Hall of Culture. For example, during an MMA match, the stage of the Aalto Hall is set aside, as a large cage is installed in the stalls for the fighters, and the chairs are arranged around it.
TIP: A house tour combined with a lunch enables anyone interested in architecture or history to enjoy the atmosphere at their own pace. In April 2019, it’s still cold outside, but later on in summer, the terrace in the inner courtyard of the building, with fountains designed by Väinö Aaltonen, is like an oasis in the middle of a busy city. Perhaps you’d like to meet up with some friends or relatives at the Hall of Culture?
Contact the staff for more information about the premises, events and opening times. You can imagine the throngs of fans they’re used to working with - these people can handle anything!
Photos: Emmi Tulokas
Historial photos: Alvar Aalto Foundation