When designing a holiday home on the edge of a nature reserve and in the vicinity of the grounds of a manor house, the authorities felt that it should be as unobtrusive as possible in the landscape. Instead of an impressive appearance, Eräpohja Architects focussed on high-quality finishes and durable materials in the villa, which is embedded into a gentle slope.
ARK Architect Rami Eräpohja, what were the starting points in the design of Villa Askainen?
RE The site is bordered by a reedy bay designated as a Natura 2000 area. On the opposite side of the bay is Louhisaari Manor, Marshal Mannerheim’s childhood home.
The museum authorities insisted that the new building should be as unobtrusive as possible in terms of its materials, colour and form. We took the colour for the window frames and casings from the surrounding rocks. The camouflaging was enhanced by the turf roof of the summer kitchen and swimming pool.
The building’s seafront facade comprises a lot of glass, which has been used to blur the boundaries between the interior and exterior. The glass facade is oriented so that it is not visible or does not reflect light in the direction of the manor house. This is further ensured by the solid flanking wall of the balcony on the manor house side.
ARK A holiday home built in concrete is not the most typical Finnish solution. On the other hand, a lot of wood has also been used in the exterior cladding and interior. How were the materials for the house chosen?
RE Initially, the idea was to design a wooden building, but as security and ease of maintenance were also key criteria, concrete finally seemed to be the best option. The building is mainly in concrete, both inside and out. The roof and intermediate floor construction are also concrete. The goal was to make a building that would last 100 years.
The exterior walls are in places clad in treated wood battens. The battens help soften and break up the monolithic character of the mono-material facade. The wooden parts are either instinctively in the shade or beneath the large roof awning, which increases their durability.
Absolutely no paint, wallpaper or drywall has been used in the building. Beyond their external appearance, all materials and working methods have been designed with longevity in mind. In this sense too, the house is a perfect neighbour to the manor house – there too, the tiles are not replaced with every new fad.
I believe the building will improve with age. Then the wooden parts will acquire a patina and the walls will be taken over by vines.
ARK Villa Askainen represents high-end building – its occupants are clearly interested in architecture and can afford to invest in their dwelling. What kind of freedom did this bring to the design?
RE The assignment was very simple: there was no budget, but ostentation was unacceptable. For example, special attention was paid to the fact that the building would not look very large as seen from the public road.
There were, of course, some special design requirements. Blue-green algae prevents people from swimming in the sea, so the house had to have its own swimming pool. The building is occasionally empty, even for longer periods, and so security and vandalism prevention had to be taken into account. The building also had to be barrier-free.
There was no need to consider the cost aspects when choosing the materials, which of course is marvellous for the architect but also challenging, as there are rarely real opportunities to search for premium-priced floor tiles for holiday homes. The lack of a budget can also be a problem, as it takes away from the architect the best excuses.
ARK Life in a second home often differs in terms of needs from a normal dwelling. What is life actually like in Villa Askainen?
RE Despite its large size, the villa tried to maintain a certain summer home character, with its kitchen-living room and bunk beds. The difference from a normal detached house is, for example, the size of the living room compared to the size of the sauna. When on holiday, the living room is perhaps not used in the same way as in everyday life, while the summer kitchen and entrance lobby take on a greater significance than normal. ↙