Muuratsalon Koetalo

Architecture in Jyväskylä

Connected to Säynätsalo by bridges, peaceful Muuratsalo islet was the summer retreat of Alvar and Elissa Aalto. Aalto built his Experimental House – a must-see for architecture buffs – on three hectares of forest on the shore of Päijänne, and it can now be visited by pre-arranged guided tours; book through the Alvar Aalto Museo or Jyväskylä tourist office. To get here, drive or take bus 16 (€4.70, 40 minutes) from Jyväskylä; the house is 500m on from the final stop.

After meeting your guide at the street gate, you'll walk past Aalto's beloved boat, Nemo Propheta in Patria (Nobody is a Prophet in their Homeland), which is now housed in a shelter on terra firma. Then on to the lakeside sauna and to the main event – the house itself. This is divided into two parts: the main building (1952) and a guestroom wing (1953). The latter isn't part of the tour as it is still used by members of the Aalto family. Aalto used the enclosed patio in front of the L-shaped main building to try out various types and patterns of bricks and tiles to see how they looked in different seasons and how they weathered – it's fascinating to see how he quality controlled materials before specifying their use.

The interior of the house is extremely modest in scale and finish, and retains its original Artek furniture. You can well imagine Aalto sitting on the patio, which commands a framed view of the peaceful lake, while pondering his next design.