Villa Skeppet by Alvar Aalto
Villa Skeppet by Alvar Alto (photo by Martina Österberg)
It’s not often that a new Aalto building appears, and still less often one of his house projects. But in the small Finnish town of Tamisaari (Ekenäs in Swedish), a house designed by Aalto for one of his friends is open for the public after having been restored at the end of 2020.
Villa Skeppeet by Alvar Aalto was completed in 1970 was designed by Aalto for one of his great lifelong friends the writer Göran Schildt.
First there was a rocky start with the two not hitting it off during their first few meetings. But after a meeting at the request of another of Görans friends the Italian designer Roberto Sambonet in 1952 Göran and Aalto hit it off. They would become lifelong friends and allies after this.
The Schildts built for themselves a house on Leros Island in Greece in 1965 and got married the next year. Göran and Christine at this time had no home in Finland as Goran lost his Helsinki home to his first wife in the divorce.
Aalto proposed deigning a house for them in Ekenäs where they could stay during the summer and see friends and family. Aalto had designed a bank there already and he knew the town. The cities plan did not allow for construction on the plot, but the temptation of having a second Aalto designed building in their small town was just too great for them and they accepted the Aalto design.
Already Aalto had asked Schildt to write a work about Aaltos Architecture. After Aalto died Schildt did this collecting and publishing a 3 volume biography of his work.
It was Göran who was one of the founding members of the Alvar Aalto Foundation and now the thanks to the Christine and Göran Schildt Foundation the Villa is open to the house to the public.
Early sketch (©Alvar Aalto Museum)
It appears to have been a labour of love for the Aaltos with Alvar himself doing the masonry work for the fireplace. Neither did not charge his friend for the design.
Villa Skeppet or ship in Swedish does look a little like a boat with perhaps the roof evoking the sail of a boat about to be raised.
Also interesting is the plan. Right at the front is the car garage. The staircase planned to separate that from the house internally the library facing the private garden to the back and the living room and balcony raised above as a lookout over to the sea.
Plan (©Alvar Aalto Museum)
The Villa is the last private house designed by Aalto before his death and although Aaltos list of works is long his housing projects although notable are relatively few. So while a building by Aalto could never be thought of as overlooked this building might be relatively speaking a hidden gem.
It was due to open in the Autumn of 2020 but the Covid-19 epidemic has prevented for now any visitors there. I am looking forward to visiting a beautiful less well known jewel in happier times.
The renovation was carried out by Mustonen Architects.
• Sanna Tegel has made a PHD thesis on the Villa