The building completed in 1933 as Paimio Sanatorium was of key importance to the international career of architects Alvar and Aino Aalto. Together with Vyborg (Viipuri) Library, completed two years later, it gave the Aaltos an international profile. Finnish architecture was no longer merely the receiver of influences from outside.
The building, constructed on the basis of their win in an architectural competition resolved in 1929, was groundbreaking. A tuberculosis sanatorium was particularly suitable for a building which followed the tenets of the new Functionalism, where bold concrete structures and state-of-the-art building services were inseparable elements of architecture and practicality.
Aalto designed the interior colour scheme, including the yellow floors in the main staircase, the colourful walls in the corridors, the dark ceilings in the patients’ rooms and the orange balcony rails, in conjunction with the decorative artist Eino Kauria.
The entire building complex, grouped together in several parts according to use, was constructed in accordance with Aalto’s philosophy, right down to the smallest details of the furniture. As far as the loose furniture was concerned, a good many items designed specifically for the sanatorium were used, as well as standard products which were already available. According to the idea of standardisation, which belonged to the spirit of the times, these items were also planned for use elsewhere – for example, many of the light fittings ended up in the catalogue of the Taito metalworks.
The pieces of furniture became key products for Artek, which was founded in 1935. The bent plywood Paimio chair in particular has become an international design icon. On the other hand, the three-legged stool, which is the same age as the sanatorium, was not included in the first phase of the furniture supplied by the Otto Korhonen furniture works. The furniture in the patients’ rooms was dominated by tubular-steel construction, soon to be spurned by the Aaltos.
An operating theatre wing designed by Aalto’s office was added to the main building in the late 1950s and new staff living-quarters were erected nearby in the 1960s. The sinuous, serpentine row of shared flats in the middle of the pine forest, known to the inmates as the ‘Hall of Vipers (Kyykartano), brought a new form of accommodation to the area.
Paimio Sanatorium is located in the middle of pine trees. Photo: Maija Holma, Alvar Aalto Foundation
The color schemes of Paimio Sanatorium were co designed with Eino Kauria. Photo: Maija Holma, Alvar Aalto Foundation
Destination on the map
1. Paimio Sanatorium
Information for visitors
Good to know
Arriving to Paimio
Paimio is located in between Turku and Salo, approximately 140 kilometers away from Helsinki and 30 km from Turku. You can reach Paimio with a car or take a bus from Helsinki. Bus from Helsinki to Paimio stops at a bus stop called “Paimio motorway junction 11”. Order a taxi by dialling number +358 21 0041. Please note: there is limited availability of taxis so pre-ordering is advisable.
You can also take a train or a bus to Turku from Helsinki. From Turku you can take a local bus to Paimio city. Please note that the schedule for the bus is very irregular, especially during the summer. It takes approx. 1 hour to travel. Please check the timetables in advance at Matkahuolto or at local traffic site Föli. Some local buses take you directly to the sanatorium but some of them only stop at the centre of Paimio, approximately 3 kilometres away from the Paimio Sanatorium. From the centre you can call a taxi (with your mobile phone) by dialling number +358 21 0041.
Please note that the Sanatorium is in Finnish Paimion parantola, but the road signs, and the timetables state Paimion sairaala (Paimio hospital).
Paimio Sanatorium is located on Alvar Aallontie 275. Please note that you can only visit the building with a guided tour. The tour operator is Magni Mundi and you can find more information about the tours and prices on their web site.
Please note that you can purchase publications about Paimio’s Sanatorium from Alvar Aalto web shop!