Kirkkonummi, Finland: Two reasons most people have never heard of Hvittrask in Finland are because it is difficult to pronounce and it takes a little effort to reach it. Once there the visit is worth the adventure with the added benefit of getting some walking exercise through the Finnish countryside. Hvittrask claims to be home of the pioneering Finnish architects and partners Herman Gesellius, Armas Lindgren and Eeliel Saarinen. Saarinen is the best known of the three. Their work, known as Finnish National Romanticism, includes modern, art deco and art nouveau flourishes.
Finish National Romanticism on display in Hvittrask, Finland
Approximately 18 miles outside of Helsinki, the Hvittrask complex is in the Finnish version of art nouveau architecture. This architectural style is known as “Finnish National Romantism.”
Incorporating the British Gothic Revival, Finnish wooden architecture, and Jugendstil, a German art nouveau style meaning “Youth Style.”
Saarinen’s early form of architecture, Finnish National Romanticism culminated in his 1904 design of the Helsinki Central railway station.
The project was built between 1910 and 1914.
The Architectual studio – resident at Hvittrask
Taking some of its inspiration from medieval castles, the studio/residence at Hvittrask capitalized upon the necessary elements for architectural creativity, not the least of which was an understanding of light and the role it plays in design.
Eeliel Saarinen’s first major achievement for his firm put him on the architectural map with the construction of the Finnish pavilion at the World Fair in Paris in 1900.
Art in Finland
Finland is a country with creative genius in virtually every artistic discipline. Whether the six months of bitter cold and darkness contribute to the inspirational magic that emanates from the tiny Scandinavian country is debatable. What is not debatable is how travelers marvel at the superb quality of Finnish architecture, arts and crafts, performance art, music and contemporary design.
If nothing else, Hvittrask is the quintessential example of the creative talents of the Finnish people.
Eeliel Saarinen was the father of Eero Saarinen. Eero Saarinen is perhaps most famous to Americans for designing the Gateway Arch in St. Louis.
Gesellius, Lindgren and Saarinen
From 1896 to 1905, Eeliel worked as a partner in the architectural firm of Gesellius, Lindgren and Saarinen. It was during this time the three designers decided to build a home just outside Helsinki where they could concentrate on their work in a creative atmosphere conducive exclusively to the requirements of their craft.
Construction on Hvittrask began in 1902. Hvittrask translates to mean “white lake” in English. It is within this setting the three men derived much of their inspiration. Nestled on a hillside overlooking Lake Vittrask, the home has stunning views of the surrounding forests and lake. These pay homage to the passionate love of nature so typical of the Finnish character.
Though the three men and their families did not occupy the site for very long, it did provide a haven for their work.
Today the studio and home is a museum featuring the art of three architectural masters.
As one would expect at a place where three architects live, everything at Hvittrask enhances their art. Pay particular attention to the detail of the furnishings in the living areas as well as the studio itself. Windows are huge, slanting to maximize the ambient light.
Art nouveau lovers will enjoy the detailing of the property as well as its clever use of space.
Much like Ainola, the forested home of Finnish national composer Jean Sibelius, Hvittrask provided the same seclusion and peaceful surroundings that are so conducive to the creative process.
Unlike Ainola however, Hvittrask does require a bit of effort to reach unless visitors are able to access it by car. There are few reminders of the station in Luoma, so be alert and place it on your itenerary.
Helsinki Grand Central Station
The Grand Central station was built in 1862 to accommodate trains on the Helsinki-Hämeenlinna line, päärata, Original plans for the building were drawn by Swedish architect Carl Albert Edelfelt. Unfortunately, that early plan did not accommodate the growing number of train travelers.
In 1904 a contest was held to create plans for a new station. Eliel Saarinen, with a pure national romanticist design, won that contest. However, a debate about the architecture of major public buildings, with demands for a more modern. Saarinen new design was complete in 1909. The new station’s doors opening in 1919.
Beginning each May, Hvittrask is open to visitors only during the summer and months of early fall. Weather patterns and seasons create a variety of moody atmospheres through its shadows and silhouettes thanks to changeable light and colors.
Lest you think Hvittrask was once the home of three stuffy architects and their wives, consider that the intimate proximity of trio of families led to some interesting marital arrangements including two of the partners actually exchanging wives.
That is to say, not wife swapping, but wife changing. This certainly must have led to unique family gatherings during the holidays.
Today the property also features a small cafe and gift shop set amid the tranquility of Finnish woodlands and lakes.
Travelers with an adventurous spirit who enjoy a brief stroll through the country will find their ultimate destination at Hvittrask to be a view into past by men who gazed into the future.
About the Author:
Bob Taylor is a veteran writer who has traveled throughout the world. Taylor was an award winning television producer/reporter/anchor before focusing on writing about international events, people and cultures around the globe.
He is founder of The Magellan Travel Club (www.MagellanTravelClub.com)
His goal is to visit 100 countries or more during his lifetime
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