Alvar Aalto's Sunila

In international terms, Sunila, which was designed by architect Alvar Aalto, is the best-known architectural site in the Kotka-Hamina region. It is also the most extensive of Aalto’s realised designs. Once acclaimed as the most beautiful factory in the world, the Sunila Mill and its surrounding residential area became an icon of Aalto’s international modernism, presented at the World’s Fairs in Paris in 1937 and New York in 1939. This extensive and uniform residential area in Karhula, Kotka, is instantly recognisable as the handiwork of Aalto.

The jewel in the crown of the Sunila area is Kantola, the mill manager’s residence built in 1937; it can now be rented for private functions. With its 450 square metres of floor space on two floors, Kantola represents Alvar Aalto’s functionalism at its purest.

Sunila’s white buildings with dark wooden details are in harmony with nature. The town plan is based on free placement of the buildings in the area, giving an open view of the surrounding nature. Sunila is known as Finland’s first forest town with good reason.

The community thriving around the mill had its heyday in the mid-20th century. As well as providing employment and rental accommodation, the company cared for its employees by offering daycare and hobby opportunities. Sunila is now like any other residential area, but its distinctive architecture and stories of bygone days are reminders of its unique history.

Sunila is some 13 kilometres from Kotka town centre. It is a suitable destination for excursions by bike, for example – in the summer, fill a picnic hamper and take your swimming gear to enjoy the nearby Äijänniemi beach, with its lovely pine-forest scenery.