29.5.2024

Auvisen Aalto

As seen on the TV programme Grand Designs Finland, Auvisen Aalto is a single-family home in Jyväskylä that exudes durability and shelters a small family paradise.

Auvisen Aalto is above all else a home: a place for a family that appreciates privacy, togetherness, nature – and of course – architecture, with Alvar Aalto being a particular favourite.

– Although Aalto has long been our favourite architect, the house is not just a pastiche of his architectural elements. However, you can definitely feel his presence through the significant impression his architecture left on us and me, says resident and architect Anssi Auvinen.

The house plays with contrasts: closed-open, private-public, cold-warm, dark-light, rough-soft, compact-spacious, and straight-edged/flowing.

For instance, the architectural features of the façade and the general exterior are colder and harder, not exactly laying out a welcome mat for visitors. The robustness is further emphasised by the building’s elevated location and the roof rising in the direction of the street. The dark larch façade is rugged and stark. The entrance is tucked away under the terrace and hides the interiors from the street.

The interior breathes gentler and softer features, including a welcoming “central square” created by the living room, dining room and kitchen. This spacious core with its undulating roof opens out towards nature and offers scenery, light, and a place to spend time together and let thoughts fly free without being disturbed by neighbours or street traffic. The bedrooms and bathrooms of the adults and children are on opposite sides of the common space to ensure privacy and peace.

– Looking back, I can proudly state that the architecture is successfully boring. It feels as if the house had always been with us – it meets our wishes and goals so well. Nothing feels particularly special or surprising about it, either positively or negatively, the house is just the background of our lives, our family’s little paradise, concludes Anssi Auvinen.

Technical solutions

The architect’s goals set the guidelines for the technical solutions, aiming for longevity, minimal maintenance, and clarity of work. He wanted the house to complement the narrow sloping plot and be a modern solid wood house with all the benefits of traditional log houses, but with more freedom in the styling. As a result, CLT elements were selected as the structural solution for the above-ground components and cast blocks for the subterranean portions. The basement floor is a ground-level concrete slab, whereas the intermediate floors and subfloors are hollow core slab.

The building framework has three modules, with the middle component extending underground and the other two modules placed higher to minimise excavation work on this challenging site. All CLT elements are 200 mm thick and made of spruce board. The central module serves as the house’s common space and creates a circle on the ground to which the side modules connect. Both storeys have concrete floors. To ensure longevity and energy efficiency, the CLT elements used thick, breathable wind protection insulation and were clad with larch panels treated with iron sulphate. Panel segments that would otherwise have gone to waste were used to build the fence around the terrace.

The window and heating solutions take climate change resilience into account. Of course, the living room needed large windows. However, their height was precisely aligned with the sun’s movement to minimise scorching sunshine. The windows were also coated to reduce the sun’s glare. Environmentally friendly geothermal heating was of course the natural choice, supplemented by ground cooling to provide relief in the hottest summer months. The room heights in the side modules and their windows were more subdued for energy efficiency considerations.

The omission of eaves in the design stresses this modern take on wooden houses. The surface materials and colour palette were chosen to mirror the nature surrounding the house, to age beautifully, and to be maintenance-free. Together, they form a harmonious whole, rougher on the outside and welcoming on the inside. The lower ceiling in the central module is an undulating ceiling panel, which was kept simple. While the roof’s basic shape was slanted and rising outwards, suspension beams were cut to shape and extra-narrow spruce panels were installed under it. This all enabled the sharp radii of curvature.

The construction project

Work on the design began in May 2021, with the final shape taking form in November. Once the building permit was issued in March 2022, construction began straight away in April with earthworks. The foundation was laid in May, and the basement and intermediate floor were frame-ready by Midsummer. The CLT elements were installed in the last week of June, as was the roof structure that was built on site in three elements and then lifted onto the CLT elements. With the roof in place, the building was protected from the weather. Workers then finalised the building exterior and installed the larch panelling and windows that dominate the exterior.

All the living areas have concrete floors that were carefully sanded to produce a luxurious finish. Once the concrete floors were ready, the interior work began with the wooden partition walls, the surfaces, and fixtures. The fixtures came pre-installed, and the main contractor handled the coating and tiling. The developer managed all other work. Plumbing and electrical tasks went on in small batches as the project sailed on. The calling card of the property, the undulating living room ceiling, was done last, being completed at the very last minute before the final inspection. Jukola Industries Oy provided the beams and panels cut to shape. In the end, the ceiling’s uncomplicated design made the installation work easy albeit time consuming. The family was able to move in a week ahead of schedule at the end of November 2022. A few finishing touches were added the next summer, such as the terrace planking and the plaster on the retaining walls and basement plinths.

Even though the house was not prefabricated, the project management of the construction felt as smooth as a turnkey delivery. The “builder-friendly” designs certainly helped, as they included construction techniques and the order of operations. Thanks to good advance planning and careful procurement, not even the events of spring 2022 managed to delay deliveries or cause large budget overruns.

CREDITS

Anssi Auvinen (s. Helsinki 1974) on Aecmaster ohjelmisto- ja konsultointiyrityksen perustaja ja toimitusjohtaja. Hänellä on laaja kokemus ja koulutus rakennusalalta. Hän aloitti rakennusalalla 16-vuotiaana lapion varresta työmailla, edeten aina työpäälliköksi urakoitsijalla, jonka jälkeen hän on keskittynyt suunnitteluun ja sen ongelmien ratkaisemiseen, jotta ala voisi uudistua ja korjata luontoa haittaavia toimintatapojaan.

Ongelmien ratkaisu on vaatinut Anssi Auviselta omistautumista alaan aina alkaen koulutuksesta. Hän on kahdesti käynyt läpi Aalto yliopiston (ent. Teknillinen korkeakoulu) ja valmistunut ensin diplomi-insinööriksi rakennustekniikan laitokselta (2001) ja sitten arkkitehdiksi taiteen ja suunnittelun korkeakoulun puolelta (2022).

Viimeisimpänä ponnistuksenaan, Anssi Auvinen on yrityksensä kanssa tuomassa alalle ohjelmistoa, joka mullistaa suunnittelun työnkulun ja kiinteistöjen elinkaarisuunnittelun ja -hallinnan. Työssään arkkitehtina ja suunnitteluprojektien vetäjänä, Anssi Auvinen kokee suurimmiksi vahvuuksikseen monialaisen osaamisensa, luovuuden ja vastuullisuuden.

Hän kuvailee suunnitteluprosessiaan hitaaksi intuitioksi, jonka aikana suunnitelma saa kaikkia osapuolia parhaiten huomioivan ratkaisun. Hän kokee olevansa palveluammatissa ja ihmiskunnan sekä maapallon asialla. Se ei tarkoita sitä, että arkkitehtuurin estetiikka pitää sivuuttaa, jos tavoitteena on vastuullisuus ja kestävyys. Estetiikalla on suuri merkitys rakennusten eliniänodotteeseen kuten oikeilla materiaalivalinnoilla.