The increasing industrialization of north European countries such as Finland during the sixties caused the decline of the small scale agriculture and a depopulation of rural areas while urban communities grew exponentially.
Finland’s improving welfare structure and a better standard of living pushed the request for new houses and in turn created a boom in the construction industry. The use of prefabricated and standardized elements played an important role in this process.
Through the 60s, Alvar Aalto’s office worked on many houses abroad which also included private and public buildings in Finland.
Even though his success positioned Aalto as the authoritative Maestro member of the Finnish Academy, he also got criticized by the new generation of architects who called him and his work as elitist; especially when compared with the geometric simplicity in the works of Mies van der Rohe, an idea many of them adopted.
For sure, during his career, Alvar Aalto’s architectural choices became more monumental, primarily because of the materials he choose for the projects.
During most part of his career, Aalto worked on several projects commissioned by his friends, in which their personalities and needs were always taken into consideration.
Alvar Aalto And GoranSchildt: The Concept Behind Villa Skeppet
The last house Alvar Aalto designed was also for one of his longtime friends, GoranSchildt.
Aalto and Schildt met in the 40s and instantly became friends. But as friends, their real journey started in 1952 when Schildt introduced the Italian Artist Roberto Sambonet to the architect.
During the 50s, the three men became close friends and Aalto even designed a villa for Sambonet but it was actually never built.
Schildt was known as a travel writer and art critic but he also wrote several books on Aalto, including a biography which was published in the late 80s.
Schildt and his wife spent most of their time abroad, specially in Greece where they had a vacation house.
Joking about this, Schildt later recalled – Aalto started to work at the project for the Villa Skeppet with an ironic comment: “You spend too much time abroad. l’ll build you a house that makes you stay in Finland.”
A Boat Villla.
As Schildt loved Greece, Aalto preferred Italy but both were fascinated by the Mediterranean landscape, culture and civilization which eventually influenced/inspired the design of the villa.
Alvar Aalto’s Villa Skeppet is located in a quiet seaside street of the small coastal town of Tammisaari.
Skeppet means boat or vessel and refers to the exterior of the house by the living room and balcony which resemble the commanding deck of a ship; a clear reference to Schildt’s love for the sea and Mediterranean.
In fact, the façade is dominated by the protruding living room corner which reminds the shape of a prow and by the wedge-shaped balcony that protrudes above the main entrance.
The inside space is arranged in four areas. The largest and the most visible of them is the entrance hall/living room area.
In the quietest part of the house, Aalto located Schildt’s studio while the kitchen and the bedroom are in a separate area.
The guestroom and sauna building are separated by the main building and linked to it by a canopy and pergola.
In the back of the villa, the garden is screened by a wooden fence and has a small water-lily pond.
The peculiar shape of the villa is highlighted by its volume and the materials used.
All the facades are covered with wither-rendered bricks except for the living room and balcony which are overlaid in dark-stained wood.
Between the main building and the sauna, the white-painted wooden latticework is used as a screen.
To obtain more floor space and the particular prow shape, the cantilevered balcony was extended over the building’s foundation, allowing a better view of the living area.
As his practiced with all his clients, Alvar had an intense correspondence with Christine and GoranSchildt to discuss the details and their special needs.
They decided everything together such as the colors for the bathroom and the kitchen as well as the best positions for windows and doors.
Schildt also desired an Ibsen like style furnished room with late 19th century furniture which Aalto fulfilled as the guest room.
Aalto was particularly fascinated by the concept of steps that he developed in several projects including the famous MaisonCarre.
As Schildt recalled, “To him, they meant a meeting point between the human frame and the earth, an event where our legs measure the differences in levels of the terrain.”
Alvar Aalto’s love for steps probably come from terraces in mountain villages and hill towns of the Mediterranean countries which he loved and tried to reproduce it in the exteriors of Villa Skeppet.
He managed to squeeze in four steps in front of the main entrance, five from the hall to the first floor and courtyard level plus ten steps from there to the living area.
It is also understandable why the staircase in the hall has such an important role in the spatial order of the rooms and movement through the building in the Villa Skeppet as in the Villa Mairea.
From the ground floor, the visitor has a quick sight of the living room with its exposed ceiling beams. Walking up the stairs, the house gradually reveals itself. From the mid-level, there is a view of the garden, the studio and the kitchen.
At the first floor, the living room’s geometry and materials used remind of the interior of a boat. Thanks to its wood-clad ceiling.
The heart of the living room is undoubtedly the fireplace with its flame-shaped exterior while the large corner window overlooks the seashore park.
The interior decoration is a mix of Alvar Aalto furniture and Mediterranean elements such as the Greek amphorae close to the Aalto’s Savoy Vases. Today, the house is a private home.