Clustered low-riseSlab, point-access
Pietilä, Raili & Reima | Tapiola (Helsinki), Finland | 1962-9; 1981-2
Image of Suvikumpu/...
Tallest of the stepped elements at Suvikumpu

ArchitectPietilä, Raili & Reima
CityTapiola (Helsinki)
AddressSuvikummunrinne, Suvikummuntie
Building TypeClustered low-rise
Slab, point-access
Number of DwellingsNA
Date Built1962-9; 1981-2
Dwelling Types2 br. flats, several dif. types
No. Floors2
Section Typeflats
Exterior Finish
painted concrete, stucco, wood siding & trim, wood windows
Construction TypeR-C frame
Ancillary Servicesshopping center, in-building storage

Suvikumpu is one of the Tapiola residential neighborhoods south and west of Tapiola Center. The rolling, wooded landscape of Suvikumpu is punctuated by a small, rocky hill which was part of a series of fortified positions left from World War II. Pietilä won a competition for this site in 1962 and the complex which we see today was built in three distinct phases over the next twenty years. While the program, building technology and use of materials evolved during this time, the original site and building strategies were consistently followed resulting in a very unified complex. The idea of an ell-shaped group of buildings to frame the hill along the north side of the site, another group extending perpendicular to the hill along the lower space of the site to the south, and a third group of communal spaces marking the intersection of the two groups on the west is clearly evident both in the competition model and in the completed project. The original design included housing for about 500 people but space for only about 300 was actually built in the first phase of construction between 1964 and 1969. Another 32 dwellings were built in the second phase between 1981-82. The third phase included the small shopping center, flower shop and several apartments and was built in 1983.
The first group of three buildings, (Suvikulma, Suvikeskus & Suvikäri) form a stepping ell shape on the north and west corner of the site framing and looking onto an open space to the south and the rocky outcropping in the center of the site. This complex seems continuous but is actually three buildings which step in height from 9 floors at the east end to 3 floors at the south end. The stepping form in plan serves to delineate individual dwellings and also provides the formal mechanism to create entrances, balconies, and windows so that the overall stepping form is simultaneously expressed in the mass of the building, the plan and section, and the detail development of individual dwellings. This idea is clearly seen in the plan which is at once repetitive and modular but, is at the same time, individualized and chaotic. The mix of dwelling types and sizes in the plan further contributes to the impression of repetitive variety. These first buildings were built of in situ concrete with other exterior surfaces of wood and plaster. The concrete is rendered as horizontal wood siding and painted in different shades of green to match the surrounding forest: spruce green, pine green, and birch green. The plaster is snow white. The repetitive, concatenated form of the plan is actually an organization of connected point access towers, each with a stair surrounded by a zone of service spaces which back up to the north and west opening to living spaces and balconies on the south and east. The second group of two connected stepping buildings which extends south past the western flank of the rock outcropping, was built in 1981-82. These, as is typical of Finnish housing construction today, were made of pre-cast concrete panels. While the same pattern of horizontal siding is used to texture the surface of the pre-cast concrete panels, the absence of the plaster walls, more extensive use of wood siding and the more redundant quality of the plans is obvious in the later group of buildings and the resulting surface quality is different. The heights vary here from two to four floors so that even though there is an obvious stepping quality to the overall form of the building, it is not as exaggerated and interesting is the 1960's project. The final element of the Suvikumpu complex was the construction of a small shopping center which is really a flower shop with several dwellings above. Unlike the competition design where the communal spaces were attached to and were formally integrated into the overall stepping layout of the site the last building to be built here is separate, disconnected element although it does provide a formal gateway to the housing areas from the west.
Pietilä is perhaps best known for his large public buildings, the churches, the student center at the Institute of Technology at Otaniemi, and the large commissions in the Middle East. Suvikumpu stands out, however, as a quintessential commission in Pietilä's work. Perhaps more successfully than any other building, this residential complex demonstrates Pietiä's ideas about modernism, the influence of a natural landscape on building form and quality, and formal notions about the articulation, transformation, and manipulation of architectonic form, materials, and construction. In spite of the modernist imagery of white stucco, pre-cast concrete panels and Di Stijl scholarship, references to Nordic vernacular traditions are equally obvious. The general disposition in the forest, recalls rural farm buildings, sited to retain an intimate relationship with a natural landscape. The chiaroscuro quality of the intermittent light in the forest establishes almost metaphysical relationship with the intermittent stepping form of the building; a symbiotic relationship between building and landscape is thus established. Rendering cast concrete as horizontal wood siding, painting this shuttered concrete in pastel greens to mime forest colors, and the formal strategies which reduce undifferentiated surface to identifiable articulated elements are strategies to domesticize an underlying functionalist doctrine and shape it to a pre-existing landscape.
The combination of a modular, tectonic concept of building, usually expressed as a repetitive element, and references to a Nordic landscape, usually expressed as free-formed elements, is a critical quality of Pietilä's work. This juxtaposition of naturalistic and modular forms can been seen in the Dipoli center designed a year before Suvikumpu, but constitutes a reoccurring theme in many of Pietilä's later designs. This quality permeates his artistic studies as well and is a reoccurring element in his formal explorations about landscape and nature and in most of the wonderful sketches that accompany Pietilä designs. This formal preoccupation is augmented at Suvikumpu with a fascination about the development of the "corner". While Pietilä credits De Stijl sources, clearly this focus on the corner has become a principle theme in the architectural quality of the buildings expressed throughout from the stepping form of the building to individual dwellings to doors, windows, balconies, details and material rendering. Indeed, the organic/tectonic dialogue and the highly developed catalogue of corner articulation has become almost the raison d'ętre of Suvikumpu.

Pietilä; Intermediate Zones in Modern Architecture, (exhibit catalogue), Museum of Finnish Architecture & Alvar Aalso Musesum, Jyväskylä, 1985, pp. 50-5; 129.

AV, No. 9, 1974, pp. 99, 90-99, 129-142.

AV, no. 5, 1981.

Process Architecture, No. 34, 1983, pp. 26-50.

Malcome Quantrill, Reima Pietilä; Architecture, Context, and Modernism, Rizzoli, N.Y., 1985, pp. 63-72, p. 221.

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