3 / 2017 - foundations, summer cottage, small scale

Spending time at the summer cottage is at the core of the Finnish way of life. Travelling to the cottage and staying there transports the mind away from daily routines. Proximity to wild nature is an essential part of relaxing and being active at the cottage. Breaking away from the hectic pace of life and hard work, we allow ourselves a certain freedom and playfulness. This has also influenced the way the cottages themselves are designed, perhaps making similar allowances – often innovative ideas first appear in small houses. To avoid spending hours in the car driving to our summer cottage, we can always choose urban cottages, for which Arkkitehti offers a wealth of new ideas. Architects Mauricio Pezo and Sofìa von Ellrichshausen, who live and work in Chile, have achieved worldwide fame with their small-scale buildings. In their column, they discuss the summer cottage as a phenomenon. It is "a space in between; a place to depart and return, to go back and forth, in and out, from reality to fiction, from artifice to nature, from art to life". The latest Arkkitehti introduces summer cottages and other small-scale buildings. While the designs reveal widely differing approaches, they all have one main factor in common: they all have a relationship with the landscape.

One of the summery buildings introduced in the issue is the new public sauna on the island of Lonna, which is built in the traditional way from solid log. The return to traditional brick and log structures has been seen as one way to build in a healthy, sustainable way. Architect Juulia Mikkola argues in her article that, with modern complex structures and the exponentially increasing number of different materials available, we are creating buildings that can easily go wrong. They have a short life-cycle and cause health problems to their users. The first experiments on solid structures have been carried out in small buildings. In the 1960s, a small architectural journal published by Finnish architects, Le Carré Bleu, set out to explore new routes for architecture. Rather than promote new building technology, its quest was to combine theory and design. The ideas of Aulis Blomstedt, Keijo Petäjä and Reima Pietilä are now gaining renewed momentum.


Villa K
architect Marko Huttunen
location Porvoon saaristo
gross area 250 m2
completion 2016

photos Patrik Rastenberger

More than a hut but less than a house, the cottage is a modest but pervasive building type. It is a detached object, a little and lonely construction that incarnates a primal and relative architectonic problem: it is at once minimal and excessive.

The cottage is not a typology but an archetype. It is the very idea of a dreamlike retreat in the middle of a picturesque setting. It is indeed a destination place. An architecture with almost nothing, with the bare minimum enclosure, equipment and belongings. It is reductive as a consequence of its remoteness, which somehow coincides with the existential economy of the modern promises, of that moralizing degrade of living into housing.

Conversely, the cottage contains more than the essentials. As a temporary destination place, or to the mere idea of such exotic domain, it certainly exceeds the normality of everyday life. Within its modesty, a cottage is exuberant by definition, which basically corresponds with the pure enjoyment of nature associated with its greater relative: the villa, that ideological device measured by a pleasure factor.

If the reduced size of the modern apartment is compensated by its mechanical repetition, by a sense of massive and undifferentiated aggregate of equal parts, the singularity of the cottage is expanded by its rather metaphysical ambition, this is: the dream of self projection, of individual character. A mirage that is multiplied by a twofold dimension: by an idealized detachment from the world together with an idealized return to wild nature.

If the modern dwelling was the outcome of a prototype, or a mere sample within a production chain, despite its humble size, the cottage is primarily an unrepeatable, one-of-a kind, single architectural piece. Even beyond the circumstances of a particular place, there are as many cottages as eccentric personas in search for their emotional embodiment (e.g. the opening in the forest at Muuratsalo by Aalto, the stone temple in Mallorca by Utzon, the log shelter in the Black Forest by Heidegger or the unbuilt laconic patio at Procida by Rudofsky). The cottage is a frozen ego, the materialized aura of a fleeting illusion.

The cottage’s primitive spatial form has been originated in the very horizontal extension of the human body while resting (its own name derives from the notion of a "cot", from old French côté or small portable bed). The cottage is, then, the obligatory asylum (a fenced land) to be both immersed but separated from its romanticized surroundings. This fluctuating demarcation, latent since the times when architecture was unaware of itself, has been persistent and intuitively formalized by the definition of an outline with a diverse range of enclosure mechanisms.

Certainly, a cottage is neither a cave nor a tomb, neither the first house in paradise nor the last one. A cottage is a space in between; a place to depart and return, to go back and forth, in and out, from reality to fiction, from artifice to nature, from art to life. ark

Mauricio Pezo and Sofìa von Ellrichshausen work in their own office in Concepción, Chile.

Näköislehti: Site Logic