Alvar Aalto designed a home for composer Joonas Kokkonen that blends beautifully into the landscape, and inside opens up like a fan around the studio and grand piano. Come and explore Villa Kokkonen with Design Stories!
FEW HOUSES look as well adapted to the terrain as this low, single-story home on the crest of a gentle slope. Villa Kokkonen’s organic, undulating facade, reminiscent of the lid of a grand piano, is dark and almost unnoticeable from the street, calmly blending in with the contour of the street.
Many people know of Aino and Jean Sibelius’ Ainola residence in Järvenpää, Finland, but Villa Kokkonen in the same area is an architectural gem of equal value.
Villa Kokkonen was the artist’s home and workspace of the composer and honorary Academician of Science Joonas Kokkonen (1921–1996), and was completed in 1969. The house was designed by architect Alvar Aalto, and is one of the few private homes he designed.
The dark exterior of the home hides bright and cozy private spaces.
The west-facing plot has three buildings on it: a pergola leads from the main building towards the log sauna building, next to which is an irregularly shaped, curved swimming pool. The garage is in a separate building next to the entrance road. Both the house and the sauna are made of wood, and the main building is clad in dark vertical boarding.
JOONAS KOKKONEN and Alvar Aalto got to know each other when they were members of the Academy of Finland. Aalto first visited the plot in 1967, and drew his first sketch of the house. Aalto placed a soundproofed studio at the center of the home, and it still houses the composer’s grand piano and original furniture.
The other rooms of the modestly sized home – the living room, dining room, kitchen and bedrooms – were arranged in a fan-like pattern around the study. The layout allowed the large, soundproofed sliding door to be closed when Kokkonen was composing, so that the rest of the family could continue their daily lives in the rest of the home. It was also possible to hold small concerts in the house.
Villa Kokkonen was not only a place of work and reception venue, but also a home on a human scale.
Most of the items of furniture in the house are unique pieces designed by Alvar Aalto and Artek especially for Villa Kokkonen, or well-known Artek classics. The walls are decorated with art that the Kokkonens had purchased or received as gifts.
Alvar Aalto never charged his friend for his design work, but asked Kokkonen for “a few lines of music”. Kokkonen fulfilled this wish by dedicating a cello concerto to Aalto. It was premiered in 1969.
Joonas Kokkonen’s estate sold Villa Kokkonen to the City of Järvenpää in 1998, and later donated the movables to the city.
Text: Jenni Juurinen Images: Niclas Mäkelä
This story was originally published in the Asun magazine’s issue 41.