alvar aalto’s first industrial building — a concrete silo in oulu, northern finland — is set to be transformed into a new research center focused on industrial heritage and its environmental impact. in august 2020, the building was purchased by factum foundation, a non-profit organization that promotes digital technology in conservation, and skene catling de la peña, a UK-based architecture firm. the team is now seeking to turn the cathedral-like structure into a research center called ‘the AALTOSIILO for digital preservation’.

alvar aalto concrete silo
image © raimo ahonen | main image © finnish heritage agency



factum foundation was established in 2009 to demonstrate the importance of documenting, monitoring, studying, re-creating, and disseminating the world’s cultural heritage through the rigorous development of high-resolution recording and re-materialization techniques. working with skene catling de la peña, the intention is to use research and technology to restore and reveal alto’s building, a powerful structure that was once used for storing wood chips. the building has been neglected since it closed in the 1980s, but remains an example of concrete construction by one of the greatest architects of the 20th century.

alvar aalto's concrete silo to be turned into research center by skene catling de la peña
image © charlotte skene catling for factum foundation



the goal is to establish a nordic network of collaborators across finland, sweden, and norway, including those with many years of experience documenting industrial heritage and its environmental impact in the north and the arctic circle. in december 2020, factum foundation signed a memorandum of understanding with the oulu university of applied sciences which will offer a research and training program that responds to theoretical, practical, and ethical imperatives surrounding the use of new and emerging digital technologies for the conservation and rehabilitation of built heritage in the region.


fundraising is ongoing to support the restoration of the building, with renovation work scheduled to start in spring 2021. interested parties are invited to get involved in the project via the foundation’s website.



project info:


name: restoration of alvar aalto’s silo at the toppila pulp mill
location: oulu, finland 
organizations involved: factum foundation, skene catling de la peñaoulu university of applied sciences
status: fundraising ongoing, renovation work is scheduled to start in spring 2021