Eero Saarinen’s Family Country Estate
Finns have a special relationship with the forest. As a true Finn, Eero Saarinen, a Finnish architect and furniture designer, nonconformist and revolutionary, from time to time needs to draw energy from nature. Therefore, as every self-respecting Finn, he has a small country house, lost in the woods, where he lives three or four times a year.
Eero Saarinen’s Family House Designed by His Father
The Hvittryask estate in Vittryask (Finland) by Eliel Saarinen, Herman Gesellius and Armas Lindgren
At the turn of the XIX-XX centuries, three classmates from the Polytechnic Institute in Helsinki – Eliel Saarinen (Eero Saarinen’s father), Herman Gesellius and Armas Lindgren – had much greater ambitions. In harmony with nature they were looking for a base for their creativity, inventing specific Northern Art Nouveau. Their laboratory was located on a mossy lakeside Vittryask, a calm solitary place with tall pine trees.
Formally, these sixty acres owned Saarinen and got from them from his father – forest operator, but he shared ownership into three equal parts and distributed among his associates with the condition that there would be only one house on the territory.
The architects jointly erected the Hvittryask estate, which looked like something in between a knight’s castle, a village hut, and a professor’s ranch. All three families lived in the huge house with their common studio, where Saarinen and colleagues designed stations, museums and villas.
And then they took up a quite ambitious project – the Finnish Pavilion for the World Exhibition in Paris in 1900. It created a furor, not only due to paintings of Akseli Gallen-Kallela , but also because of its archaic forms – in defiance of the coming modernism.
Saarinen considered architecture of the new century un-Finnish and directly linked it to the influence of the Russian Empire’s dominance. He was an active member and passionate orator of the national romanticism generation. He spoke about the necessity of using only local materials – granite and fir. And his friends insisted on the national fairy tales motifs and old techniques. Gesellius even learned furnace casting from the village craftsmen and independently put all fifteen furnaces in the house. The furnaced are still in good condition.
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