When architects talk about their projects, the conversation invariably turns to the challenges of the brief and how these were resolved. For Teemu Hirvilammi, building his own house was fraught with unrealistic goals. ‘You want to try new techniques, use less space and build on a lower budget,’ says the Finnish architect. ‘It’s only when you change the goal to simply one of building a good house, and nothing more, that the puzzle is solved.’
Hirvilammi’s family home sits on a narrow wedge-shaped block in Kivistönmäki, a residential quarter about 350km north of Helsinki. You get the sense that the choice of location was a practical one – his children’s school is nearby, as are the grandparents and the railway station.
But with views of the forest, it’s also quietly bucolic, which explains the decision to flip the layout of the house. The bedrooms and the utility room are located on the ground floor, while, on the first floor, the living room, which opens to a balcony – enclosed by vertical timber screens that provide a passive sun-block – commands a soothingly calm view of greenery.
It’s no surprise that Hirvilammi describes the house as minimalist and vernacular. The flow of space is austere, helped, no doubt, by the dominance of untreated spruce for the interiors which catches the light streaming in from the large windows, and spruce, painted black, for the exterior. The cabinetry is all bespoke, while the furniture – mostly by Aalto and Nikari Oy – has been in the family for years.
A smaller single-storey building takes up the adjoining side of the triangular plot. This houses a work-room, guest room and a wood-heated sauna (this is Finland after all).
To say House H is simple is to miss the point. The design belongs very much to the locus, and there is a pleasing empathetic scale to the space. As Hirvilammi, who also runs a small studio in China, points out, ‘It’s very difficult to say what my architectural style is. My inspiration comes from the fact that I’m culturally aware and humanistic.’