Paimio Sanatorium

Paimio Sanatorium:
Alvar Aalto’s breakthrough project

Paimio Sanatorium, designed by Aino and Alvar Aalto in 1929 and completed in 1933 as a tuberculosis hospital, is a global landmark of functionalist architecture.

Finnish architecture became an international concept, which built not only the Aalto’s reputation but also the Finnish national identity.

An open and anonymous architectural competition was held for the Paimio Sanatorium in 1929. The young architects Aino and Alvar Aalto won the competition for the tuberculosis sanatorium in Southwest Finland. The construction of the sanatorium took almost four years and was completed in 1933. The sanatorium is an exceptional complete work of art that exudes the connection between man and nature, and where architecture is a tool for healing.

The sanatorium, based on the Aalto’s winning design for a January 1929 competition, was an exceptional and holistic work of art, which focused on the healing properties of architecture, and its relationship with the human body. When planning Aalto oriented each building wing in the best possible air direction in terms of both light and temperatures.

On the outdoor terraces, patients could experience the soothing presence of the surrounding nature, the lightness of clean air, and the healing effect of pine forests. Bold concrete structures and advanced building technology were integral parts of architectural functionality and expression. The coloring of the interior of the building: the yellow floors of the main staircase, the colorful walls of the corridors, the soothing dark ceilings of the patient rooms and the code colors of the building technology, surprisingly inside the white outer shell.

The building complex was implemented down to the smallest detail of the furniture in Aalto’s view. Loose furniture was designed to serve the well-being of patients and the functionality of the architecture as well as the whole. The Paimio chair designed for the sanatorium became an icon of its era. The organic form of the chair was above all functional, it was designed as an armchair for the sick and easy to clean. The sculptural Paimio chair, still today, is one of the world’s best-known design classics.

According to the plans of Aalto’s office, a surgery wing was made in the main building as early as the end of the 1950s, and a residential building for caregivers separated from the main building in the 1960s. At the same time, the cell houses in the terraced house brought a new form of housing to the area. The area changed and developed.

Tuberculosis patients were treated in the sanatorium until the 1960s, after which it was gradually turned into a general hospital. Hospital operations ceased in the mid-2010s, and new purposes for the facilities have been discussed ever since. Between 2014-2021 part of the premises was rented by the Foundation for the Rehabilitation of Children and Young People of the Mannerheim League for Children’s Welfare.

At the moment Paimio Sanatorium is run by Paimio Sanatorium Foundation.

It’s clear that the building complex of the Paimio Sanatorium has an important and multidisciplinary role regionally, nationally and internationally.