Alvar Aalto was commissioned by the city of Helsinki to design a concert and congress building, the first constructed part of a great central city plan, which Aalto first presented in 1961, and which included a series of cultural buildings aligned along the Toolonlahti bay which penetrates the city centre. The earliest sketches show features of what were to be the main features of the final design. The principal set of blueprints for the concert hall are dated May 10th, 1967. The construction works for the building started in December of the same year. Finlandia was the only one of the buildings proposed by Aalto's city plan. buildings ever completed.
The main features of the building's exterior are the great horizontal mass of the building proper and the towering auditorium that rises above it. The facade is made of Carrara marble with copper roofs. Marble has also been ued for the interior, where it is supplemented by details in hardwood and ceramic. A prominent feature of the interior layout is a shallow and broad 'Venetian' staircase leading from the ground-floor foyer to both the main auditorium and chamber music hall.
Unfortunately several design flaws surfaced over the years. Balconies on the upper level muffle the sound. The exterior Carrara marble cladding was thin and began to curve. The thin slabs of Carrara marble used for the exterior, which have not held their form and have had to be replaced with thicker ones. The restoration works were finished in 1998, but in 2006 the marble has started to curve again.
Finlandia Hall will be repaced as a concert venue by a new hall, to be constructed alongside the existing structure, beginning in August 2011. The old hall will be continue to be used for conferences and exhibitions.
The Finlandia building comprises a main concert hall with 1,700 seats. It features Aalto's distinctive marble balconies and cobalt-blue walls with bent-wood decoration; a smaller auditorium, called Helsinki Hall with 340 seats and a congress hall which can be equipped with up to 900 seats, depending on the configuration.