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Alvar Aalto: the great architect of the Santa Claus village  

Who was Alvar Aalto?  

Hugo Alvar Henrik Aalto (3rd February 1898 – 11th May 1976) born in Kuortane, Finland was a Finnish architect and designer. His work includes architecture, furniture, textiles and glassware, as well as sculptures and paintings. The span of his career, from the 1920s to the 1970s, is reflected in the styles of his work, ranging from Nordic Classicism of the early work, to a rational International Style Modernism during the 1930s to a more organic modernist style from the 1940s onwards. 

Early life –  

Aalto completed his basic education in 1916, and started taking drawing lessons from a local artist. In 1916 he enrolled to study architecture at the Helsinki University of Technology. However, his studies were interrupted because he went to fight in the Finnish civil war. Later, he continued his education, graduating in 1921. In the summer of 1922 he began military service, finishing at Hamina reserve officer training school, and was promoted to reserve second lieutenant in June 1923. In 1923, he opened an architectural office in Jyvaskyla under the name ‘Alvar Aalto, Architect and Monumental Artist’.   

Lapland during WW2 –  

In the 1930s, Rovaniemi was a quiet trading town of around 6,000 people until Russia invaded in 1939. The Finns fought off their aggressors in the brutal winter war of 1939-40, then allied with Germany for protection from further Russian incursions. The Germans created a base in Rovaniemi, doubling the population and built an air field and barracks, which would then become Santas official airport and Santa Claus village.  

Once the Germans left in 1944, they burned Rovaniemi to the ground, they destroyed 90% of the town.  

Rebuilding Rovaniemi, Lapland –  

Aalto was commissioned by the Association of Finnish Architects to reconstruct the town in 1945. He saw the burned town as an opportunity. Aalto had the genius idea to have a town shaped like a reindeer. The central Rovaniemi is wrapped inside the reindeer’s head, with the Keskuskenttä sports stadium as the eye. Roads leading north, west and south make up the antlers. 

Photo: Visit Rovaniem

In June 1950, Eleanor Roosevelt wanted to visit the Arctic Circle, so the Finns built a log cabin near Rovaniemi airport in a week, furnished with chairs designed by Aalto. The cabin because a tourist attraction and a tourism grew Rovaniemi was rebuilt.  

He designed three main buildings for the towns centre:  

  • A concert hall  
  • A town hall  
  • And a library, which is one of his finest works  

He also built a small section of houses in the suburbs, a private home and a commercial block all inspired by Frank Lloyd Wright’s design style.  

Santa Claus Village –  

Local entrepreneurs created the Santa Claus Village when more visitors were coming to Rovaniemi to see the arctic circle. A rural-style wooden village was created around Eleanor Roosevelt’s cabin, offering shops, reindeer rides, a Santa, and a post office so visitors could send letters from the Arctic Circle. This is where every letter addressed to Father Christmas ends up – around 700,000 a year. 

Image: TripAdvisor
Architecture & Building

The most festive Christmas getaway locations due to their architecture

Many people and families love to go away around Christmas. This is because the aesthetics and architecture are even more festive and enchanted around the December period. Here’s a list of locations and buildings that you might want to visit to get you into the festive spirit.  

Colmar, France –  

Firstly, this town in France is well known for its charm. The town is well decorated with cobblestone and medieval and renaissance architecture. For example, it has a similar style to the Maison Pfister.  Colmar’s Christmas markets are among the best in the Alsace region. It is one of the most photographed Christmas markets in Europe. The houses and buildings are beautifully decorated and lit up with Christmas lights.  

Colmar , France shared by Lucian on We Heart It

Hallstatt, Austria – 

Secondly, Austria’s Lake Hallstatt is full of character, and one of the oldest towns in Europe. The city contains baroque architecture. Baroque architecture is a highly decorative and theatrical style, taking basic elements of renaissance architecture. Making it grander, more decorated, and more dramatic. However, the town is the most festive when the beautiful architecture is covered in snow.  

A Winter Fairytale in Hallstatt, Austria - Find Us Lost

Lapland, Finland –  

When you think of Christmas where is the first place you think of? For myself and a lot of other people, it’s Lapland. The architecture and landscape are basically straight out of a movie. It’s popularised to be the home of Santa Claus and has some of the best Christmas markets in the world. A lot of Scandinavian architecture merges the structure with the surrounding environment. For example, using wood and natural materials, natural light, clean lines, neutral colours, and more.   

Santa Claus Village in Rovaniemi in Lapland Finland Arctic Circle

Bruges, Belgium –  

If you are into cities that have a lot of history, Bruges would be a perfect place for you to visit. The city still has a ton of original medieval architecture still intact. Medieval architecture features styles from Romanesque, French style, and gothic style architecture. As well as, characteristics including stained-glass windows, tall spikes, turrets, and arches.  

Christmas in Brugge, Belgium. Photo @quan.engine | Places to go, Beautiful  places, Vacation

Quebec City, Canada –  

Quebec City is a great old-world treasure, the historic streets date back to the 1600s. The City is the closest thing to a European Christmas you will get, without all of the travel. The city hosts a German Christmas market each year and it is a perfect getaway for the festive season. The city alone is very picturesque so when you go in the winter it is even more showstopping. Especially with all of the decorations and the snow on the ground and buildings. 

The Ultimate Guide to Quebec City – A Charming Wonderland Perfect for  Short, Winter Honeymoon or Vacation – The Honeymoon Guy

Rothenburg Ob der Tauber, Germany –   

Finally, Rothenburg is Germany’s Christmas capital and it’s the home to the world’s only Christmas Museum. Its well known for its well-preserved medieval old town. It is one of the only three towns in Germany that have completely intact city walls. In addition, this town is considered to be Christmas all year round. It is popular among tourists and it attracts around 1.5 million people every year. 

Winter in Rothenburg ob der Tauber, northern Bavaria, Germany :  r/MostBeautiful

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