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alvar aalto studio
eye lo descubrió en noviembre de 2008
Written for Virtual Finland by Hanni Sippo and Arne Heporauta
In the early 1950s Aalto’s office received large commissions, among them two institutions of higher learning. Aalto’s home office and the Ratakatu office in the Finnish Engineering Society building of his own design, became too small. In 1954, Aalto designed a spacious studio in Munkkiniemi, completed in November the following year.
Situated at Tiilimäki 20, the building is only a few minutes walk from Aalto’s home at Riihitie, and the staff of both former offices fit there easily. The building was designed to be a studio, for in Aalto’s opinion you could not create architecture in a regular office space. The outlying location was an added bonus, providing the architects with peace and quiet.
The two-storey building is situated on a slope so that when looking from the street, most of the building cannot be seen and there is no hint of the spacious inner yard within the grounds. The house does not open itself to the passer-by: its closed nature is emphasised by the brick wall facing the street. To quote Aalto: ‘The studio turns its back on the street in an almost Oriental manner, opening instead towards the intimate central garden, which rises like an amphitheatre and doubles as a lecture hall.’
Aalto’s own office room dominates the first floor. The ceiling of the wedge-like studio room rises high in the main space, and the windows of the curved wall open onto the yard. The other architects worked in the long drawing hall, where natural light is skilfully utilised. When needed – with a competition deadline nearing, for example – extra desks were placed in Aalto’s own room as well. The ground floor houses the administrative office, the housekeeper’s rooms, a dining room, storage space and a garage.
In 1963, the building was provided with a two-storey extension behind the brick wall outlining the inner yard. Its first floor was a workspace, and the ground floor had a dining hall known as the Tavern.
In time, it became evident that the building required renovation. The first condition assessments were made in the late 1990s and the planning of the renovation began in 2002. The board of the Alvar Aalto Foundation appointed a building committee consisting of board members Vilhelm Helander and Martti Huhtamäki and the architects Esa Laaksonen and Hanni Sippo. A-konsultit Architects were chosen for architectural design. Magnus Malmberg Consulting Engineers was responsible for structural design, Trilogon Engineering Bureau for HPAC planning, and Sähkö-Ohmi for electricity planning. Garden design was done by the landscape designer Gretel Hemgård.
The main contractor in the project was Laatukuutio Oy. The roof was repaired by Lemminkäinen Oyj. Electrical wiring was led through the original ducts. Ventilation work was subtle, and windows were repaired with thoroughly dry heartwood taken from parts of the storage room. The original light fittings were repaired, the furniture cleaned, the walls and the ceilings painted. All in all, the building met contemporary standards, yet retained the spirit of Aalto’s studio.
Published September 2005 / Updated July 2008