The Aalto House

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My main reason for the trip out to Munkkiniemi was to visit the former home of the Finnish Functionalist/Modernist architect Alvar Aalto on Riihitie.

The house was designed by Alvar and his first wife Aino, also an architect and designer who worked with her husband. They acquired the site in 1934 in what was then a relatively unspoilt area, semi-rural on the outskirts of the city. The house was completed in 1936. Aalto lived there with Aino (she died of cancer in 1949 aged 54) and then with his second wife, another architect Elissa Mäkiniemi  who had been working as an assistant in his office who he married in 1952. Today it’s owned by the Aalto Museum which is based in Jyväskylä. Visits are by guided tour only.

The house was designed as both a family home and an office, although Aalto was careful to separate the two. The working part of the building, the studio, was segregated to one end in it’s own wing.

Aalto’s version of Modernism incorporated the use of traditional and natural materials in his buildings. This can be seen in the use of wooden cladding on the exterior of the residential part of he house. 

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The studio wing is constructed of whitewashed brick – so a separation of the building’s two functions is apparent externally

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Aalto believed that there should be a unity between the interior and the exterior of a house and he incorporated this idea into his own home. The large windows open out onto the garden which is effectively an extension of the main living areas on the ground floor – at least, in the summer time, the winters in Finland are cold and harsh – and there’s a roof terrace which extends the upstairs living space.

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The design of the house makes maximum use of natural light and insulating materials are used to protect against the cold of winter.

Aalto’s desk is in the corner of the studio with a view outside through two large windows. Today it overlooks a sports field and nearby buildings but in the 1930’s he had a view towards the sea.

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The studio is separated from the living quarters by a moveable wooden screen.

Aalto’s approach was to see the design of building and it’s interior as a whole, and this is reflected in the residential wing of the house where furnishings and fittings have been carefully selected – largely designed by Aalto and Aino for their design company Artek.

There are two main rooms downstairs that form an open plan living space with large windows overlooking the garden/

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Upstairs there was another cosy living room

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with a roof terrace

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a guest bedroom

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and three family bedrooms.

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It was a very pleasant and cosy home. relatively modest, but it must have been a fantastic place to live and work.

To me, there were many similarities with Erno Goldfinger’s home in Hampstead and also the Bauhaus Masters’ houses – all Modernist buildings used as both family homes and workspaces.

Aalto eventually needed more space for his architectural practice so built a separate studio a short distance away in 1955. The Studio also belongs to the Museum but isn’t open on a Sunday, so I was only able to take a peek from the outside.

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2 thoughts on “The Aalto House

    • I do try to make the most of my work related travel. I knew the Aalto house was a must as soon as I found out about it. I visited several other of his buildings while I was in Helsinki this time. Unfortunately, I couldn’t get a look inside most of them.

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