Page D1.3. 19 April 2006                     
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    House for Midnight Sun

    continued

    In a region where typical houses are about 1600 square feet (150 square meters) in area, this one is fairly big at about 2100 square feet (200 square meters). The roughly 10-month construction period was not unusual, but the double-bricked exterior was. This assembly is not used often because of cost and the difficulties presented by a short building season and a shortage of skilled bricklayers. "With plastering on top, it's one of the most expensive facades," Haikola says.

    Concessions to Climate

    Finnish architects are limited to some extent by climate-related criteria. Building regulations require about 7 inches (18 centimeters) of mineral wool or comparable insulation in the exterior walls, according to Haikola. Roof insulation is usually 12 to 16 inches (30 to 40 centimeters) of mineral wool.

    Also, the wide, glazed vistas common in warmer climes are not likely to catch on here soon. Temperatures go as low as -30 degrees Fahrenheit (-35 degrees Centigrade) with heavy snowfall. According to Haikola, windows in Finland are always triple-glazed, with argon or other gases between the layers. This makes it difficult to achieve minimalist window and door details, flush with wall surfaces, "even with accurate drawings and big money."

    In contrast to his departures from tradition, the inclusion of a sauna is typical if not mandatory in the country said to have introduced the steam/sweat cure to Europe. In a land that's nearly 70 percent forested, finding fine woodworkers isn't hard. Because sharing one's sauna is often a social event, homeowners are likely to invest in making them attractive and distinctive.

    Oulu has a history of good civic architecture: Finland's architectural hero Alvar Aalto designed the plan for the town's river delta. The industrial complex Typpi Oy was also Aalto's design and includes villas and saunas for the factory managers. Haikola describes the "Oulu school of architecture" in the 1980s as a postmodern answer to the "cold, minimalist" Helsinski school.

    Despite his admiration for these large civic projects, however, Haikola considers himself primarily a residential architect. Houses, he believes, better allow him to develop his architectural thinking and see his designs built, rather than languishing in schematics as they so often do for architects competing in large competitions. This house is one example of how innovation can extend the respected traditions of Finnish architecture.

    Lisa Ashmore is a freelance writer based in Atlanta and former managing editor of the monthly architectural journal, DesignIntelligence.

     

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    House in Oulu, Finland, by architect Matti Haikola.
    Photo: Matti Haikola

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    Main entry.
    Photo: Matti Haikola

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    Kitchen.
    Photo: Matti Haikola

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    Light-colored surfaces maximize precious daylight.
    Photo: Matti Haikola

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    Jacuzzi.
    Photo: Matti Haikola

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    Toilet room.
    Photo: Matti Haikola

     

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