Homes built from prefabricated concrete elements – Alvar Aalto and the post-war housing production

Jonas Malmberg
Published 16 June 2021

Photo: Jonas Malmberg.

In Alvar Aalto’s housing projects, prefabricated concrete elements do not dominate the architecture, though the techniques were applied and even promoted in a surprising number of his houses. The hollow core slabs developed by Juho Tapani in the 1910s, the last and best-known application of which was Aalto’s Standard Rental Apartment Building in Turku at the end of the following decade, remained mainly a curiosity. Aalto nevertheless studied the utilization of prefabrication in his design work: for instance, he designed prefabricated standard type houses soon after the mid-1930s and participated in the work of the Finnish Association of Architects’ Reconstruction Office, established in 1942 to promote standardization. The fully fledged construction of prefabricated concrete elements gained a foothold in Finland only after the Second World War.

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Kaija and Heikki Siren’s experimental wooden structures of the 1950s and 1960s

Elina Standertskjöld
Published 16 June 2021

Photo: Bengt Andersson / MFA.

By the time, after the war, when architects Kaija and Heikki Siren were beginning their careers, the research and development of factory-made wood-framed houses in Finland had already been in progress for some years. An important step in the industrial prefabrication and standardization of low-rise houses in Finland was taken when the company Puutalo was founded following the Winter War of 1940. This joint body of the wooden house industry, founded by 21 companies, focused on the design and marketing of industrially-produced standardized wooden houses.

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Compromise, Conflict and Communion: Building Alvar Aalto’s Church of the Three Crosses

Sofia Singler
Publisher 16 June 2021

Photo: Heikki Havas

The building of the Church of the Three Crosses in Vuoksenniska, Imatra (1955–58), testifies not just to the visionary creative praxis of the Aalto studio, but to the socio-cultural, political and religious milieux of post-war Finland. Aalto found in the Church a patron sympathetic to his design ambitions, and the Church in him an architect to promote an image of its own relevance in the twentieth century, but their collaboration is irreducible to coolly transactional terms. The alliance between the Church and Finland’s foremost modernist was a consciously and productively symbiotic partnership, stimulated by shared interests and values, but also encompassing compromise and conflict.

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