The Aalto House
Riihitie 20
00330 Helsinki


Alvar Aalto 1936


The house and studio that Aalto designed for himself is more modest in scale than his later villers, but has much of the orginality and elegance of form. The studio, for Aalto and his team, is separate from the rest of the house not only laterally, but in height, with steps down from it into the living room. The studio itself is double-height, with a mezzanine gallery. A generous corner window, looking into the garden, surrounds Aalto's desk at the far end of the studio.



The living area of the house is open plan, with a wall of windows looking out down the slope of the garden. Curtains separate the sitting room from the dining room and the entrance hall. The sitting room is large enough for the grand piano in the corner not to dominate the room. The low sills ensure a garden view when sitting in the sofas.



Upstairs, the bedrooms are individually more conventional, with windows cut into the timber-clad walls.



Less conventionally, the bedrooms are reached via a central landing that also served as a breakfast place, with a hearth. The landing also gives onto the roof terrace, which acts as a buffer at this level between the residential 'block' and the upper half of the studio.



Throughout the house, Aalto is concerned with the right orientations for different rooms,with respect to the sun, the road, and the sloping garden. As Alto described it at the time,

The vertical, loadbearing structure is partly of brick, but mostly of steel columns...


We wanted to make the best use in a private house of natural lighting, the orientation of the terraces and the different rooms, shelters from the wind and so on, so because of our climate, we were obliged to adopt a complex solution with a lot of external walls. This required more thorough investigation of the insulating properties of the external walls... Different wall finishings have been used in the interiors, such as fabric, non-woven fibrous rugs and wood. The floors are wood strip or linoleum, laid directly on the concrete. Cantilevered floor slabs are insulated inside and out. The external insulation is clad with corrugated sheets.

The form of the house reflects Aalto's view that

How should a private house be placed in relation to a road? The road must be at the rear and the facade should face the courtyard.

The road side of the house is quite austere, with no windowsin the cladded wood 'box', which provides a minimal porch over the front door. At the side, the house begins to open up, but still providing only a hint of the very open garden facade.



Simon Glynn 2007 (updated 2011)



How to visit


The Aalto House is open to the public, but with limited opening hours. You need to take one of the (quite informal) guided tours that happen on the hour during the afternoons. For more exact information, opening hours and reservations, please visit The same site will guide you to the nearby Studio Aalto also.


The house is in a residential area that is now a suburb of Helsinki, about 4km northwest of the city center - see map below.