Alvar Alto Design Theory Paimio Sanatorium

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  • Topic: Alvar Aalto, Paimio Sanatorium, Sun
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  • Published : May 3, 2011
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Alvar Aalto
The figurehead of modernism and leader of bringing architecture back to the human scale that once was, Alvar Aalto is now an architectural inspiration to us all. Aalto did not use his architecture as a learning tool but more as a gesture toward the emotional and physical needs of man. His architecture was meant to enrich the lives of those it served.

Aalto focused on context in site in relation to the human body. Forms, light and shadow were inspired by the Finnish forests Aalto grew up near. When he was a child he made drawings of the landscape that influenced his later built projects in their relationships to horizons and vertical connections, sections and ground plan. He brought us buildings that involved form, light, and color, along with many other attributes all over the world including the Viipuri Library, the Paimio Sanatorium, and even Mt. Angel Library here in Oregon.

Functional Room Functional Design
The rooms in the patients' wing are arranged on the north side of the corridor. By siting the rooms on one side only, Aalto was able to bring natural light into the corridor and give the patients the feeling that they were in control of the space.

Aalto studied the angle of the sunlight in conjunction with the heating system. Sun blinds were fixed outside the windows to cut down solar gain. The whole building was designed in every aspect to make the patients confinement tolerable and to assist in their healing. Their room's were designed with a horizontal person in mind. The source of heat comes down from the ceiling, one wall was lined in absorbent insulation to make acoustics more restful, and the window frames in the rooms were timber to reduce condensation and be warmer to touch.

the washbasins were designed to run silently and had to be hygienic and easy to clean (unsuccessfully in practice). The pipe work was concealed in the walls, whereas prior to this pipes were usually surface-fixed.

Aalto had his own ideas about the ceilings for example. "The ceiling of the room should be the colour of the sky," The lighting came from a wall mounted uplighter out of the patients sight where it was diffused throughout the room. Since the ceiling was painted in darker tones, the ceiling area reflecting the light had to be painted a lighter one.

The door handles were created with as much methodical attention to detail. They were designed so coat sleeves or pockets couldn't get caught and they had rounded edges in case patients should happen to knock into them.

Rose cellar
In the Sanatorium death was an everyday reality, so naturally there was a mortuary on the site. The Rose Cellar, as the mortyary was called, disappeared into the terrain and took its name from the roses covering the mound of earth in front of it; only the holes drilled into the wooden door in the form of a cross gave a clue as to the use of the building.

The mortuary is a light, whitewashed concrete vault lit by a roof light. A black-painted wooden catafalque rests on the brick-red floor and the partition that divides the curved vault has an abstract painting by Aalto and the Turku artist Eino Kauria.

Viper hall
The nurses' home, known as the 'hall of vipers', was designed and built in 1060-63. It is a two-storey, four-part building, with each part joined to the next by an drawn-in linking element. It departs from Aalto's 1930s buildings mainly in that, instead of a flat roof, it has a pitched roof and the detailing does not focus nearly as much on metal. The name is derived from the fact that the building wriggles gently across the terrain.

Stairs
Tuberculosis was treated with fresh air, so that sun beds suitable for external use were needed. They emerged as the result of some specialist design work, as did the 'winter sleeping bags' made of sheepskin that were part of the sun beds.

The whole interior of the building is pervaded by health giving light, most powerfully in the stair cases, where sun spills...
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