With my family in Germany over Easter, I decided to use my free time for visiting Hvitträsk, former home and studio to the trio of architects who belonged to the most influencial forces during the Art Nouveau period in Helsinki: Hermann Gesellius, Armas Lindgren and Eliel Saarinen.
Unfortunately, the weather was very “Finnish” and the sun didn’t show all day, so the pictures are somewhat dull. The housing complex sits on a hill overlooking gorgeous lake Hvitträsk and forest. In the summer it is certainly a lovely place that would achieve what the three partners chose the place for: inspire the architects and their families and serve as an office where they could design ever more Art Nouveau buildings for Helsinki.
The building was designed to be a “piece of art” and it certainly is, even though I found it somewhat on the “heavy” side, which is typical for Finnish Art Nouveau.
It felt a little strange to learn that the same architects, who covered large areas of formerly unbuilt land in Helsinki with their buildings moved to the country side in order to escape the same city they were building. One more indicator for the circumstance that Helsinki has been (and still is) more a target for “deliberate design projects” of minds with a powerful purpose than a city organically growing through the people living there.
After some reorganizing of their mates (Eliel Saarinen divorced his wife who then got married to Hermann Gesellius and Eliel again married the sister of Gesellius), they enjoyed work-life balance until 1916, when the Saarinens moved to the USA and used Hvitträsk as their summer residence on their regular visits back home, until they sold it in 1949.
Today, the whole location including the surrounding forests is a museum and belongs to the National Board of Antiquities of Finland. An organization who doesn’t seem to have a sense for landscape planning and atmosphere, as the forest directly next to the buildings was devastated by so-called “metsähoito”, meaning a clear-cut, which seems to be the only type of forestry management that Finns perform. Should you plan to go there, brace yourself for some great view on to the lake over tree stumps and ruffled grounds. Otherwise, definitely worth a visit for Art Nouveau fans and yes, there is a restaurant.
This shows the lake and the sauna at the foot of the hill. Also the graves can be found further downwards towards the lake.