Architecture and design that heal
Spot exhibition about Alvar Aalto’s Paimio Sanatorium
On display from August 25th 2017 until January 21st 2018
The star architect and designer Alvar Aalto (1898-1976) was ahead of his time when he created the modernist signature work Paimio Sanatorium – the tuberculosis hospital in Finland in the early 1930s. With his special sense for the subtle details and the human being, he united medical science, architecture and design, and set a precursor for, perhaps even a state of the art example of, the super hospitals that are rising up around the world today.
From August 25th 2017 until January 21st 2018, the audience gets the chance to come close to the masterpiece when Designmuseum Danmark opens a spot show about Alvar Aalto’s revolutionary hospital.
Care from the inside to the outside
In the middle of the Finnish forests, at the top of an elevation, Paimio Sanatorium’s white buildings blend in with the peaceful landscape. Alvar Aalto believed that sunlight, tranquility and fresh air had a healing effect, and from the very beginning, the work was flooded by the architect’s care for the patients. The wings of the building faced towards the sun and ensured maximum light drop, just like the large windows let the sunrays through. Large halls with beds allowed patients to breathe fresh air and enjoy the view beyond the terrain.
The interior of the hospital was also designed with the patient in mind. In the hospital wards the heaters were aimed at the feet and not the head, the ceiling lighting was carefully regulated to fit the patient’s condition, and Aalto made sure to design a silenced sink that caused the least possible nuisance to the other patients in the ward. The architect had a sense for the details and the hypersensitive patient.
Paimio Sanatorium at Designmuseum Danmark
Alvar Aalto was behind all the details of the Paimio Sanatorium and designed everything from the building and the door handles to the lighting and chairs. At Designmuseum Danmark, the audience has the chance to experience some of the atmosphere at the Paimio Sanatorium when the museum shows two of the original Paimio chairs, that were created specifically for the Sanatorium. The Paimio chairs are inspired by Marcel Breuer’s Wassily chair, but Aalto created the chairs with the patient in mind and designed the furniture in the flexible birch tree that would enclose the soft human body. The chairs were designed at a certain angle, which made it easier for the tuberculosis patients to breathe. The chairs are part of Designmuseum Danmark’s own collection. In addition to the Paimio chairs, the spot exhibition focuses on material samples and drawings, and not least photographs and stories about Alvar Aalto’s groundbreaking work. Altogether, the different elements help recreate the atmosphere once found at the hospital.
Alvar Aalto revolutionized architecture with his human approach to hospitals, and
his holistic way of thinking might be worth having in mind when designing the new super hospitals of tomorrow.
The spot exhibition is specifically relevant to display at Designmuseum Danmark, as the museum originally was established as the country’s first public hospital – the former Royal Frederik’s Hospital. Even then, visible signs of the human approach we know from Alvar Aalto’s Sanatorium were present.
The exhibition is on display in the small, but centrally located exhibition room 3.