The Church of the Three Crosses by Alvar Aalto
After the Second World War, the Finnish state-owned forestry company Enso-Gutzeit wanted to develop a new industrial community in Imatra, to replace the one in Enso which had been annexed to the Soviet Union. Three former villages in the rural municipality of Imatra that were relatively distant from each were merged and Alvar Aalto was commissioned to prepare a master plan. The industrial community also required church amenities, and thus Aalto was commissioned in 1955 to design a new church. Aalto worked on the design of sacral buildings throughout his career, but several of his designs never went beyond competition proposals. Of his realised churches, the Church of the Three Crosses in Vuoksenniska is unique. The small sculptural parish church, rising up amidst pine heath, embodies the free and imaginative aspect of Aalto’s architecture. The church can be said to be Aalto’s response to the development of modern church architecture in central Europe and its significance can be compared to the Notre Dame du Haut in Ronchamp, France, designed by Le Corbusier and completed in 1954. The main church space of the Church of the Three Crosses can be subdivided into different types of spaces, the most sacred of which is the altar end and its pews, and the organ and choir balcony. Opposite this, at the southern end of the building, one could play volleyball or badminton without disturbing the other activities, the architectural complex or the sacral nature of the church. For the everyday parish activities, a kitchen and meeting room were built in the basement. Aalto, together with his office collaborators, designed the church interior, completed with its lamps, church collection baskets and candle holders, in the spirit of a total work of art. The church complex also comprises a 34-metre-high sculptural concrete campanile, as well as a vicarage that encloses the southern courtyard. The church has been listed in several different contexts as being one of the most important of Aalto’s works. Restoration and fund raising The gradual renovation of the church began already in 2012 under the direction of architect Tapani Mustonen and his skilful team. Unfortunately, fund raising has turned out difficult and slow. For that purpose, a highly appreciated initiative has been launched in Japan by Architect Andrea Hikone. Alvar Aalto Foundation fully supports her campaign and its purposes and hopes the best possible results to the effort.
Helsinki June 15th, 2021
ALVAR AALTO FOUNDATION