I was Inspired by Alvar Aalto to Think: Only Conscious Design is Good Design

I was Inspired by Alvar Aalto to Think: Only Conscious Design is Good Design

Welcome to Conscious Design Media

Welcome to Conscious Design Media. I am so excited to have you here, and I would personally like to invite you to join our mission of improving indoor air quality. Our mission is big, and we can not accomplish it without you. 

We want to improve the quality of lives for millions by creating real change in the building, architecture and home furnishing industries. It all starts with a deep understanding of the current risks, contributing factors and how we can start changing them in order to improve indoor air quality – and human health. You will get expert information based on scientific testing, but I wanted to take a moment to share with you why I personally am inspired to be part of this mission. 

When I think of the concepts of conscious design and clean air, it takes me back to my hometown Paimio in southwestern Finland. Paimio is known for the tuberculosis sanatorium designed by renowned Finnish architect Alvar Aalto and built in the clean forest air surrounded by tall pines in 1928-1933. 

Sanatorium might be a weird thing for a town to be famous for.  Frankly, when growing up, I had no idea that all of the hospitals in the world were not designed that consciously. So maybe thanks to the influence of Alvar Aalto in my hometown, I grew up thinking design is good design only when it is good for people. 

Alvar Aalto Combined Architecture and Healthcare for the First Time

Alvar Aalto was among the first architects in the world who combined design and medicine by designing a hospital in a way that the building itself helped to heal people. Imagine, if all buildings were built for human wellbeing? 

Paimio Sanatorium has been acclaimed internationally as a major modern architectural achievement and nominated to become a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is one of Alvar Aalto’s most important early designs that catapulted his career as an architect. The hospital where my grandmother worked is the first example of modern architecture applied to healthcare. 

Building Designed to Heal People

During the time when the sanatorium was built, doctors could not provide much help for the tuberculosis patients and prescribed “rest in a healing environment with clean air and sunshine”.

The entire building was designed to contribute to this prescription and it was the guiding principle for Alvar Aalto, and his wife Aino Aalto, who helped to design also the interiors and the furniture in the sanatorium. They actually called the building a “medical instrument” – it was designed to provide as much fresh air and sunlight for the patients, and of course, to meet the requirements for hygiene. Many of the corners in the communal spaces were made round to avoid the accumulation of dust in hard-to-clean corners, and they paid special attention to materials the building was made of. 

Alvar Aalto saw the importance of clean indoor air and ventilation already in the 1930s.

“Among the biological requirements of human life are air, light and sun.  Air cannot be equated to room size or number of rooms. It is a factor in its own right. We can certainly build a dwelling with a large volume of air without it affecting the economical use of floor area or playing any role in determining room heights. It is a question of ventilation.” Alvar Aalto

The areas for treatment and the patient rooms were designed to maximize the use of natural light and natural ventilation to benefit the wellbeing of the patients. The large dining room with a high ceiling was built to face south to fill up space with light. Fresh air was more important for physical wellness than sunlight, but the lighting was designed to help with psychological wellness. Windows were designed to have a unique ventilation system in a way that you can open a smaller window panel on the top, but keep the room warm thanks to the radiator placed right underneath the window. Patients could open the windows and breathe in fresh pine forest air even during the winter months. 

 

Roof terraces and balconies on each floor were built to provide easy access for the patients to enjoy clean outdoor air. A well-designed garden was part of the conscious design of the hospital and the building was designed in a way that you could see the garden and the forest from all patient rooms to provide hope and also a communal feeling when you watch others in the garden. 

Consciously Designed to Improve Wellbeing  

The Paimio Sanatorium was designed as a healing multisensory experience. Most of the furniture and lighting were designed specifically for this building, and even resulted in new patented discoveries and some of its most famous furniture is still being manufactured today. 

The patient rooms had special wallpaper that eliminated echoing in the bare rooms that were meant for two patients and had to be kept sterile. Hygiene was important, so the rooms had two sinks, one per patient. The sink basins were specially designed to be silent, and washing hands was as noiseless as possible so the other patient would not be disturbed. 

Lighting was designed to reflect the different times of the day and the needs of patient healing. Even the patient rooms got special lighting fixtures and the patient room ceilings were painted relaxing grayish-green to avoid glare.

Special attention was given to consciously design what kind of psychological effects different colors would create. The husband-and-wife design team chose paint colors throughout the building to align with the patients’ healing. Calming colors in spaces where they were relaxing, and energetic colors like bright yellow in communal spaces. The long turquoise corridors were reflecting colored light even during darkness and the building looked luminous, like a factory of healing, in the middle of Finnish pine forest. 

New Journey to Create Indoor Spaces that Improve our Health

Alvar Aalto showed it is possible to even make corners round. He combined architecture and medicine 90 years ago and used the technology of the time to create spaces that contributed to human wellbeing.

I am very excited about our task here at Conscious Design Media to find out all about the innovators of today who are changing the world with conscious design – just like Alvar Aalto did. 

 

We want to tell you stories of the pioneers and trailblazers who are building houses, designing furniture or manufacturing flooring materials that allow all of us to breathe cleaner air into our lungs.

Our goal is to help the industry to create nontoxic indoor spaces and see the importance of creating indoor environments that are good for our health, not the other way around. Our testing lab will help to validate the toxicity levels and our media platform will help to get products on the market faster through our network. 

I am not an architect or a doctor, but making a difference in the world is my most important driver, whether it’s helping people enjoy life more in their everyday lives or to use artificial intelligence to solve problems of the future already today, or to support space research to benefit humanity.

Indoor air pollution is the 12th leading cause of death in the world, and I believe we have a real opportunity of making a difference.

Are you in as a changemaker?

 

 

Resources:

http://www.paimiosanatorium.fi

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Conscious Design Media Staff

This post was written by one of our staff writers.