Alvar Aalto 1952-53
The Finnish architect Alvar Aalto designed the "Experimental House" in 1952. Aino, Aalto's first wife had died in 1949 and the house was built to serve as a summer getaway for himself and his new wife, Elissa. It was conceived as an experimental laboratory to test construction and architecture philosophies such as foundation systems, free-form brick construction, and passive solar heating. Since the building was Aalto's own financial venture and served only as a part time residence, the house is playful and expressive in its execution and possibly serves to ask more questions than it answers.
From an architectural standpoint the house is a simple courtyard scheme with an inward focus and carefully directed views out to nearby Lake Paijanne. The three surrounding enclosures of the courtyard serve as screen, living rooms, and bedchambers. In the middle of the courtyard stands a well-used fire pit. Viewing the inner courtyard walls shows over fifty different types of bricks arranged in countless patterns. The bricks are placed not only to test their aesthetic values, but also to gauge how they hold up in Finland's harsh climate. Inside, a raised loft area held in tension by large wooden beams was used as a painting studio.
Many thoughts and images come to mind when visiting Aalto's summerhouse. Tucked back in the trees, sheltered by the outstretched arms of the courtyard walls, one gets the feeling of a makeshift campsite built to keep out the cold wind and dangers of the forest. The sunken fire pit serves as the central gathering point for the camp, as you listen to the muffled lapping of the waves against the nearby shore. A conflicting image to the temporal campsite is the feeling of an ancient ruin lost from ages past. Aalto was an avid scholar of the Greek Acropolis and his familiarity with the historic work can be instantly felt. The whitewashed brick walls, with all of their imperfections, rise up out of a raw wooded landscape atop a hill. Visiting today, the imagery of a forgotten ruin is compounded by the mass of vines clinging to the white and burnt red surfaces.
Also included in the guided tour of the grounds are Aalto's boat and enclosure, as well as a sauna close to the house. Alvar designed the boat in 1954 and named it "Nemo Propheta In Patria" ("No man is a prophet in his own land"). The boat is enclosed in a wooden screened structure designed by two Denmark students in response to a 1996 international competition. Further down the path, going towards the summerhouse, is a sauna structure made from working drawings by Aalto's wife Elissa.
Taylor Medlin 2007
How to visit
The Experimental house is located south of Jyvaskyla and Saynatsalo Town Hall on the water of a village called Muuratsalo.
From Jyvaskyla in a car (see also map below): Take 9/E63 south out of the city. Get off on the Saynatsalontie road exit. Take a right onto Saynatsalontie at the end of the curved exit ramp. Saynatsalontie will turn into Kinkomaantie. You'll cross over a body of water and at the T intersection take a let onto Parviaisentie. After you cross over a bridge take a right onto Saaritie. Two bridge crossings later take a right onto Vuorenlahdenkatu. Stay on Vuorenlahdenkatu and bear left onto Melalammentie. The house is on the right down a small path leading from the road. Check in is at the entry fence near the road.
The house is open to the public from June to August (exception: closed June 22 for Midsummer). Guided tours are Monday, Wednesday, and Friday from 1:30pm to 3:30pm. Visiting the area is only allowed via the guided tour. The maximum number allowed at one time is twenty people. Big groups should call in advance.
For more information please call the Alvar Aalto Museum Ticket Office on +358 (0)14 624 809, fax +358 (0)14 619 009, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.alvaraalto.fi/info/experimentalhouse.htm.