June 26th – Paimio Sanatorium and Hvitträsk Villa

Today we visited two distinctive projects:  Paimio Sanatorium by Alvar Aaltó and Hvitträsk mansion by Geselius, Lindgren, and Saarinen architects.

The sanatorium was built during the 20’s and 30’s when Finnish healthcare progressed tremendously as more hospitals, sanatoriums, and mental institutions were being built. Alvar Aalto was interested in this kind of institutional architecture
and submitted the Paimio Sanatorium project for a competition, and won a prize.  Aalto believed that physicians and architects must work together to treat patients.

Before antibiotics the most important combatant against TB was sunlight, fresh air, and hygiene. He believed that the spaces that the patients inhabit were just as vital to a person’s treatment. Every architectural detail has a clinical function. 


Aalto describes the Paimio Sanatorium: “The main purpose of the building is to function as a medical instrument”; “one of the basic prerequisites for healing is to provide complete peace. The room design is determined by the depleted strength of the patient, reclining in his bed. The color of the ceiling is chosen for quietness, the light sources are outside the patients field of vision towards the patient’s feet, and the water runs soundlessly from the taps to make sure that no patient disturbs his neighbor.”


The patients’ rooms themselves received particular consideration. Because each space was originally designed to house two convalescents, Aalto created special no-splash sinks that would allow users to wash without disrupting the other. Lighting is located up high or down low, never at sight lines. Soothing, non-glare colors are utilized throughout the building—see the pale-yellow staircases and soothing blue common spaces. Windowed rooms connect to the landscape. A building for the ill becomes an inspiration for life.


Paimio Sanatorium The sanatorium consists of a patient’s wing and sanatorium. The structure of the sanatorium consists of a concrete pillar frame with external walls of brick. The open air wing was the biggest concrete structure of its time, balanced on a single row of pillars.

Aalto_sanatorium_1 paimio-sanatorium-3

Paimio Sanatorium                     Alvar Aalto 1929-33

Our second destination is Villa Hvitträsk. 


Hvitträsk was built between 1901-1903 by Finnish architects Herman Gesellius, Armas Lindgren and Eliel Saarinen.´The house is located on a forested ridge near the shore of Lake Vitträsk, about thirty kilometers west of Helsinki. The buildings are arranged along a rocky ridge. The long wall of the main house is placed with dramatic effect against a steep rise.

The house rises in a series of terraces and stairways and its upper storeys are given breadth by balconies, terraces, and bay windows. The courtyard is much more restrained. It is sheltered and open to the sun.

DSC_0329The main building, designed in National Romantic style, is built of logs and natural stone, that was both a common studio and a home for Eliel Saarinen and Armas Lindgren. Gesellius lived in the courtyard building and later moved into the north-wing of the main building after Lindgren relocated in Helsinki.


The interior strikes with ornamentation in National Romantic style, oftentimes the decor elements are reminicent of Kalevala.


Stained glass window in Hvittrask, the private residence of Eliel Saarinen in Kirkkonummi, Finland

5905873924_88fb174ae8_z hvitträsk_liekkitakka-2House at Hvittrask, Near Helsinki, 1902, Balcony Detail, Architect Eliel Saarinen HT huset dörrbeslag

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