The summer house, designed by, Alvar Aalto, was and still is an important piece of architecture for not only himself, but also for all other architects and designers that were interested in creating a sustainable and bioclimatic house. He discovered the land for his "experimental laboratory," as Alvar called his summerhouse on the island of Muuratsalo, Finland, in 1952. Experimentation became a major theme for this house in particular.
Aalto’s main purpose for the house was for mass production and flexible standardization to become apart of his design. It was a testing ground for discovering what would make an outstanding mass production house. He was so intrigued with mass production because this was the duration after World War two, in Finland, and all the refugees’ homes were in ruins due to the mines. So the experimental house allowed Alvar to determine what materials and techniques were best for creating a house that could be recreated fairly rapidly for the refugees’.
However, I also believe that Alvar incorporated the nostalgia of the ruins into the experimental house as well while still designing the house for the refugees from the ruins. He does this by creating hidden presences within the house. This is very visible because he creates solitary walls and empty openings all throughout the house. The themes of empty and solitary return to feelings expressed from the ruins of the war. As Aalto said, " Nothing old is born anew. Yet it doesn't disappear completely either. And what has already been arises again and again in new form."( Aalto, Louna Lahti, pg. 71.) I feel that this quote really ties into the main theme of this house, experimentation. To me this quote speaks volumes about the refugees, and how Alvar wanted to create mass production housing that was more than just putting some wall together and calling it a home. I really do believe that he did not want the refugees to be forgotten. Therefore, the house became about testing quality materials in different ways, like brick for example, to go beyond what was considered appropriate living for the refugees. The land he chose, for his testing site was heavily forested alongside a series of lakes. The actual house was composed atop of a rock that jutted up and rose about the water. Alvar considered this house to be his very own laboratory for architecture and developing ideas about what is best for not only the refugees, but also better design for all. He wanted to create a place that was applicable to all humans in a sustainable matter. He was enthralled with creating a better place for all people, from “all walks of life.” Alvar did that the best he could by considering many things while designing for the refugees and all other people. He was an architect that was very aware of key aspects of nature that were surrounding his design of the experimental house, that eventually became summer-house for he and his family. The aspects of nature that he studied and considered for the design of his experimental house was the topography of the land, climate where the house was located, solar patterns, and he also considered some type of flood protection. Aalto was also particularly aware of solar angles, and within his design of the summerhouse he is speaking to many bioclimatic concerns.
Alvar adopted modernism as well as principles of modernism into his design. Due to the incorporation of modernism in his work, the materials and form were very rich and bold. Therefore, he used red bricks to really allow the house to contrast nature. He also used white plaster around courtyard to cover the bricks. Alvar made the courtyard one of the most important features of the entire house. He designed the house to where all of the rooms of the main section, are grouped around the courtyard. His studio space is also located in the main section of the house. Aalto liked to incorporate central objects within his designs. He also used the courtyard as a way to refine the boundaries of the overall house. Which again incorporates the nostalgia of the ruins from the refugee homes.
However, Alvar incorporated the nostalgia of the refugees into the house was a submissive theme of the house being used for experimentation. His design of the house was very mystical due to the cohesiveness of the building itself compared to the nature surrounding the house. The house itself is said to have an archaic and romantic spirit due to the hidden presences, Aalto created to become indicative of the emotions expressed through the ruins of the refugees homes. Alvar designed the experimental summerhouse at a point when his career activity begins to decline nearly twenty years after he designs the house.
Alvar Aalto’s experimental summerhouse also relates to the Gray Home Management Building, on the UNCG campus, designed by Robert E. L. Peterson. The Gray Home Management building is relative to the Experimental Summer House in the sense of its placement and designing for an evolving purpose for people. However, the Gray Home management building, speaks to that theme through a different style as compared to Alvar’s Experimental House. The experimental house is more of a modern style, where as the Gray home is more traditional ranch style house. Although, they both were designed nestled in a wooded area that speaks of how both of the buildings are of great contrast. Alvar and Robert used the woods in different ways to create a certain expression for their building. Robert used trees and nature to cover certain parts of the home originally to engage you at its most interesting points. Where as, Alvar used nature to contrast his bold and rich materials of the experimental house. He also used the surroundings to soften the harshness of the boundaries of the house to were it speaks directly of the softness and quietness he was trying to create to emulate to the repressed emotions of the refugee ruins.
Overall, Alvar Aalto created a laboratory of various ideas and techniques that could possibly be channeled into mass production homes. However, he did more with the experimental house than create and devise ideas, he captured the spirit of the refugees, and how they felt after having what little they did have destroyed by the war. Although, he also incorporated into the experimental house the ideas of bioclimatic and sustainable design. Even though this house is not as renown as its designer, it still speaks volumes of a period of time that was searching how to create better design for all.