Architect: Alvar Alto , Alvar Aalto
Client: Harry and Maire Gullichsen
In late winter 1938, Aalto drew up his first plan proposal on 1:100 scale for Maire and Harry Gullichsen's private residence on the Ahlström family estate in Noormarkku, near Pori. The plan comprises an L-shaped building volume with three storeys on the entrance side and two facing the walled garden, which contains a sauna and an irregular-shaped swimming pool. An intricate system of mezzanines and stairs leads to a raised inner hall partly encompassing a free-form studio placed on a higher level. The external wall of the basement level is also in free form, drawn in under the strongly emphasized balcony front of the main floor.
'Proto-Mairea'. On April 14, 1938 Aalto signed a modified proposal without the raised hall, with the studio rising from the flat third floor. The basement and main storey still feature variation of floor height, with various landings and a whole suite of rooms for entertaining guests. A separate art gallery frames the open courtyard beyond the swimming pool. The entrance side has collage-like sections of slate facing, particularly along the projecting balcony of the bedroom storey.
Villa Mairea as built. Excavation of the foundation had already begun in spring 1938 to the 'Proto-Mairea' plan, when Aalto suddenly decided to delete the entire basement, combining the drawing rooms as well as the initially separate art gallery into a large 'all-purpose room'. This resulted in two clear-cut, comprehensive floor plans, with the ground floor reserved for entertaining, and the top floor strictly for private life. The porte-cochère has a colonnade of unstripped saplings supporting a free-form roof. A few steps lead up from the entrance hall to the living room, which combines the multipurpose character of a vernacular cottage (suggested by the monumental open fireplace) with a 'forest space' disposition inspired by modern painting (particularly Cézanne). Aalto had previously experimented with such spaces, open to the surrounding nature, in his plan for the Finnish pavilion at the 1937 World's Fair in Paris. From this room, like a concentrated forest image, a staircase bordered by irregularly composed wooden poles leads up to the upper floor, which contains a painting studio, bedrooms, children's rooms and playroom as well as a number of guestrooms. The courtyard is framed by the L-shaped villa, with the dining room and kitchen area at the lowest level, and the transversely placed sauna and irregular swimming pool along the third side. The painting studio rises up like a tower from the upper floor level, clad with wooden poles stained brown; the remaining facades have irregular, white-rendered brick surfaces. Fixed and movable furnishings are exquisite in every detail, the main materials being wood, stone and ceramic tile. The villa is undisputedly the crowning achievement of the young Aalto's architectural oeuvre. The last of the 422 final working drawings is dated January 1, 1939.
The sauna, erected in 1938, has a turf roof, and a flat turf canopy connects it to the villa via a terrace. The building forms the termination to the sheltered courtyard and provides a backdrop to the swimming pool. The front, with its Dutch door, is divided into fields with different textures, and the overall impression is Japanese. The interior consists of a changing room, a toilet and the sauna room, in which a damper system invented by Aalto combines the advantages of the traditional 'smoke sauna' and the modern sauna with a chimney. The roof was replaced in 1946; otherwise the building has not been altered.