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The reinforced concrete frame of the Paimio Sanatorium in the making

Marianna Heikinheimo

Working paper
Alvar Aalto Researchers Network 2012

Abstract

Although building technologies, such as reinforced concrete structures, are often discussed in research of modern architecture, very seldom is there an interest in the building in the making. The focus is often on the final product, which overshadows the processes of its formation.  Retrospective study of the success of an architectural solution often omits the process of trial and error as well as the interplay between the different players involved.

This paper deals with the decision-making during the design and construction of the reinforced concrete skeleton of the Paimio Sanatorium (1928-1933) designed by Alvar Aalto. It focuses especially on the interaction between the sponsors, the designers and the constructor.

Alvar Aalto´s winning entry in the open architectural competition for the Paimio Sanatorium main building was based on the use of reinforced concrete as the loadbearing structure. In 1928 he had written that there can be no new form when there is no new content. Nevertheless, he considered a novel construction method to constitute such a remarkable challenge that it alone may encourage the architect to create a new form, type or concept, even if the function of the building were more traditional.  The point of departure in the Paimio Sanatorium project for creating something truly expressive of its time  was optimal, as both the conditions, a new construction method and a new social content, were fulfilled. Work on the design began in 1929, and the construction work was started in 1930. Design work continued into 1932, and the building was finally completed in 1933.

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Marianna Heikinheimo
Architect (M. Sc.), M.A. (in Fine Arts), Ph. D. student
marianna.heikinheimo(at)archtours.com