Villa Mairea

In this exercise we try to understand Villa Mairea (Noormarkku, Finland 1938) from its inherent design logic. Like Jorge Luis Borges’ character, Pierre Menard, who undertook the impossible task of rewriting Don Quixote word by word in spite of not being from Cervantes’ time, I rethought Alvar Aalto’s summerhouse line by line based on all possible readings of his blueprints. This was a theoretical exercise that rebuilt the house with all available documentation on file, without ever visiting it. The goal was to increase the perception of a space rediscovering its architectural structure.

As an architect, Alvar Aalto gave modernism back its human aspect. In his work he explored the relationship between architecture and landscape for example, the verticality of woods and the organic aspect of lakes, so characteristic of the Finnish horizon.

The project’s methodology was to outline the house’s analysis axis in order to understand its relationship with the woods.

What caught my attention in La Villa Mairea’s blueprints were the relationships between exterior and interior, organic-geometrical, rational-emotional. In order to avoid analyzing categorical abstractions, I decided to redesign the villa with all possible detail: pavements and textures with different tonalities, the columns, the furniture, the iron details, the walks inside and outside the house and the surrounding pine woods. This generated situations: on one hand, because it was impossible to see the program from a site; and on the other, because it allowed to understand the site by situating its surroundings.

The research was planned in two stages following Aalto’s two concerns: the formal and the organic. The first stage was an analysis of the house’s organization from three axis (longitudinal, transversal and diagonal) for there were clear analogies and symmetries in the house from such axis. The second stage considered the organic relationship between the woods and the house to map layers of walls, columns and walks.

The project focused on understanding the house’s stories. The redesigned blueprints made visible the invisible: in the process of subtracting elements from the house, I produced different layers of space that allowed me to see the house as “ruins”. The blueprints, as a whole, built a “future ruin” and an archeological work of reconstruction began in the house based on its different elements. I observed plants erased the limits between interior and exterior and integrated itself with the garden. The columns of the house created a pattern that followed that of the surrounding trees. The Villa as such disappeared and turned into a continuation of the woods; evocating the four elements of nature in its formal elements: earth, air, water and fire.

Project: Rozana Montiel
Date: 2000