Today I would like to present a building that is very well known among Aalto fans. It belongs to Aalto's early works and is certainly the building that helped Alvar Aalto to gain international recognition. It has taken long time but finally this summer I was able to travel to Paimio and to see this masterpiece of architecture. The Paimio Tuberculosis Sanatorium was designed in the late 1920s and completed in 1933.
The building served until the 1960s as a sanatorium for treating tuberculosis patients. During the 60s and 70s it was gradually converted into a normal hospital due to the fact that there were less and less cases of tuberculosis in Finland. Up until 2010 it worked as a lung disease hospital. Currently it is operated as a sanatorium, again, now serving children but only during the week days. The building was nominated to become a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
As in the early years tuberculosis was treated by putting patients into an environment of clean air and plenty of sunshine where they should get as much rest as possible, this building follows exactly this philosophy.
Aalto saw the building itself as an instrument for healing. These can be clearly seen in the design of the building as I will show later. The building itself is located about 4 kilometers from the city centre of Paimio in the middle of a forest. The address is Alvar Aallon Tie 275.
The sanatorium can easily be reached by car or by public transportation. I took the train from Jyväskylä to the closest train station to Paimio which is Turku.
|ExpressBus to Salo|
You can either take the slidely faster ExpressBus going to Salo which leaves from Turku Busstation or you take the local bus 700 which runs from Turku Marketsquare to Paimio and occationally even all the way to the hospital. Otherwise if your bus only runs to Paimio centre you have to walk about 4 km.
The hospital can however easy be found
|Local Bus 700|
One word about visiting the building, as this is a functioning hospital visits are only possible when attending a guided tour. Only the small entrance hall is public space.
To get most out of your visit I highly recommend to participate in the guided tour which is organized regularly. The guide takes you through the building showing you the staircases, a original patient room, the library and of course the famous roof terrace. The tour takes about 1 hour. For more information and to arrange your visit please check: http://www.visitpaimiosanatorium.fi/
But now back to the building and its architecture. Let's first start with a walk around the building before we have a closer look inside. Here are first a few pictures from the front and entrance area.
Here are some details of the entrance hall. Worth mentioning is the curved form off the corners as seen in the right hand picture. The idea behind this was to make cleaning easier which again was important in this building because of hygenic reasons.
A very important aspect of the build are the staircases as seen below. Not only are the steps flatter in order to make them climb easier but the floors and steps are also kept in very bright colors which should cheer up the patients while moving around the building. Indeed when we think how modern this colors must have appeared in the 1930s, I would say definitely say ground breaking.
Next we look into the interiour designed to heal the patient from the illness. First we have an overview of tools used in direct treatment on display in the room next to the library.
Nevertheless, also Aalto's design was part of the treatment. A very famous example are these chairs shown in the next picture which are designed to make breathing easier for the patient.
Another interesting detail are the door handles, designed to avoid injuries.
Next, we will have a look at the library which is filled with furniture designed by Alvar Aalto (with exception of the sofas) the books however, have been removed.
From the library the dinning hall can be seen. Unfortunately visitors are not allowed to enter the hall.
The highlight of the tour is of course the famous roof terasse which gives a great view over the entire building and its surrounding.
This was the place where the tubercolosis patients spend several hours per day in order to get most of the clean air and of course sunshine.
Another interesting feature of Aalto's design is the use of colors not only to cheer up the sick but also to help them not getting lost in this for that time large building. Therefore every staircase and every floor has its own color scheme. The patient did not had to remember which floor number he or she was in but just had to remember the right color. Another interesting detail about the blue color originally used in this building is that this blue was chosen by Alvar Aalto for this building and received later the name "Paimio Blue". Unfortunately the blue seen on this picture is not anymore the original one.
Finally the guided tour ends in the first floor where one of the patient rooms was kept in its original outfitting as designed by Alvar Aalto. Only the curtins are not original even so the ones seen on the picture are designed by Alvar Aalto.
All interiour was designed by Alvar Aalto together with his first wife. Interesting is that each patient had his or her own sink in order to avoid that the patients infected each other by using the same sink. Special about this sinks is also that when the water comes out of the tap it falls quite soft into the bowl reducing noise due to its special design. The same sink can also be found in Aalto's private house in Helsinki I reported about in an earlier post.
Interesting are also the closets designed by Alvar Aalto attached to the wall. Even though very practical they weren't very popular among the patients as they reminded them often of coffins due to their special shape.
Also in the visitor section a picture taken from the air and a model of the sanatorium can be found giving a good overview over the entire building as such.
The building seen below was added later and does not belong to Aalto's original design. Nevertheless, this building was, as also all the changes made to the sanatorium, designed by Aalto's architecture office. Aalto's office was responsible for all alternations at Paimio until it cheased operations in the 1990s.