The center of Lahti has as main streets Aleksanterinkatu and the perpendicular Mariankatu and in the middle of the ceremony axis, at its lowest point (Seremonia-akselin keskellä), is the market square, from where the ends of Mariankatu rise to the ridges that cross the city. At one end of the street, the town hall, designed by architect Eliel Saarinen, completed in 1912, and at the other end, the Ristinkirkko church, designed by the very famous architect Alvar Aalto, completed in 1978.
In the south of the market square, on the pedestrian section of Mariankatu, is the statue of the sculptor Pentti Papinaho, who returned home in 1975, as a soldier. The statue is a symbol of the Finnish soldiers and a tribute to the Finnish soldiers who participated in the 30-year war in Gustav II Adolf’s army in Germany in the 17th century. Among them were many men from Lahti and from Lahti region. The statue depicts two soldiers (hakkapeliitta) returning home, two Finnish cavalry soldiers serving in the Swedish army. It was probably one of the most controversial monuments in Lahti, as it was symbol of the ideal of war. On the other hand, readers of Etelä-Suomen Sanomat have also voted it the finest statue in Lahti, getting this one most votes.
Lahti’s red-brick late Art Nouveau town hall is located on the slope of the Salpausselkä ridge, at the highest point of the built city center. Lahti obtained city rights in 1905, but the city hall was not completed until seven years later. The interior of the monumental building was as representative and impressive as the exterior raising the self-esteem of the small and young town. The building provided office space for almost every city´s facilities (mayor and magistrate, notary public, filing court, city chancellery, council chamber, technical office, pastor’s office, library, police department, fire department and firemen’s homes) except the hospital and school. An important architectural element of the town hall is its clock tower, 40 meters long and 160 meters high above sea level. In the basement of the house, formerly a prison, is now Tyrmä, a lunch restaurant. The park that opens from the town hall has been kept as original as possible. There are three statues in the park:
- Hero Statue (1921), Viktor Jansson’s statue in memory of those killed in the Civil War in memory of white soldiers
- Statue of Work (1946), Yrjö Liipola Monument to Lahti Woodworking and Worship of working
- Fish Boy (1950), a statue depicting Mikko Hovi’s child’s world and fairy-tales
The bell tower of the Town Hall and the bell tower of the Church of the Cross offer spectacular views from the top level. The concrete belfry of the Church of the Cross rises to 40 meters (153 meters above sea level). The Church of the Cross was built in Kolkanmäki (formerly Windmill Hill), in the middle of the city, but in a peaceful location, as the architect Alvar Aalto wanted. The first wooden church in Lahti, inaugurated in 1890, had also been in the same location. However, as the city grew, the wooden church quickly became too small and the developing cityscape too modest. As a result, the design of the new church began in the 1930s and the demolition was planned. The old church demolition was once a huge controversy, and the construction of the new church was preceded by a seven-year of complaints from various authorities, many considered the demolition of the old church to be an unforgivable mistake.
The facade material of the church is the same as in the Town Hall, dark brick. The south end of the church, facing the square, is dominated by a large cruciform window formation consisting of 52 windows, each one representing the weeks of the year. Three old church bells were moved from the old wooden church to the bell tower of the new church. Concerts and music events are also held at the Church of the Cross, the most famous of which is the annual Lahti International Organ Week. The Lahti City Orchestra’s recordings were also recorded at Church of the Cross before the completion of the Sibelius Hall. The Church of the Cross Park is the oldest park in Lahti, and Alvar Aalto wanted it to remain as original as possible. In the park, in the hero’s cemetery, there is a statue of the sculptor Wäinö Aaltonen, who was completed in 1952.