Richelle Sibolboro

The Aalto House – Helsinki, Finland

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Munkkiniemi, Helsinki, Finalnd

The exterior

If you are ever in Helsinki and love modern design you must visit Alvar Aalto’s Studio and House. They are very close to each other and the Aalto Foundation has planned the tours in such that visitors can do one tour, at one site and then go to the other just afterward.

Before Aalto had his studio, like most architects and designers, they worked from their homes. Aino and Alvar acquired the site back in 1934, which at the time was completely untouched. 2 years later the home was completed in August of 1936.

The couple used simple and natural materials throughout the residence to soften the design language of the building’s modern architecture.

Although the streetside elevation of the house is severe and closed-off, it is softened by climbing plants and a slate path leading up to the front door.


First floor – Private Space

The living & dining room

The house is divided into a workspace used by Alvar Aalto’s architectural firm and the couple’s private residence.

The house was designed as both a family home and an office and these two functions can clearly be seen from the outside. The slender mass of the office wing is in white-painted, lightly rendered brickwork. The cladding material of the residential part is slender, dark-stained timber battens.

The plentiful use of wood as a finishing material and four open hearths built-in as well.

As you step into the residential part of the home, there is a clear division of spaces with having to step down into the living room.

Both living room and dining room have large windows allowing for natural light to flood into the spaces. A detail to note in the dining room is a built-in cubby between the two spaces. It allows those preparing in the kitchen easy access to the dining room without being seen.

First floor – Public Space

The studio

Similar to the private space, the studio space has plenty of light to practice architecture. Also, similar to the exterior vertical cladding, that same material and treatment can be seen on the upper portion of the studio.

From the corner desk, at the time, you could see the water. The perfect setting to imagine and create the future buildings that the practice would create.

The studio is left in the style of how architecture was conducted many years ago. Set squares, plans, drawings, pencils and paintings.

Aalto’s office was located in this building until 1955.

Upper level

Library

Here you can see some exterior materials like brick, which surround the fireplace also being used for transitional areas like steps. And then wood is used again as a further transition into more private areas.

Second Floor – Private Space

The bedrooms

The upper level is greeted with a central living space and fireplace. The flat roof allows for a large south-facing terrace.

Here you can see how cosy and intimate the spaces are, using simple uncluttered materials.

There are four bedrooms, one being the master with a walk-in closet and skylight.

There have been some minor updates to the home but the original bathroom with circular sinks and lightswitches still remain.

To visit the Aalto studio without having to travel to Helsinki you can read my blog post here.

All photography by Richelle Sibolboro

Richelle Sibolboro

Design strategist and content creator for hire with a passion for arts and culture specifically in design, architecture, and travel. She has produced content for designboom, Azure magazine, Open City Projects, Digifest, and World Design Weeks. Follow her on Instagram and LinkedIn.

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