Paimio Sanatorium is in southern Finland and was built in 1930-1933. The building served exclusively as a tuberculosis sanatorium until the early 1960s, when it was converted into a general hospital. Today the building is owned by Turku University Hospital but is not functioning as a hospital; rather, the building has functioned as private rehabilitation center for children since 2014. Do you know why this hospital structure was highly regarded then by the healthcare designers?
Paimio Sanatorium was built in 1930-1933 on the basis of architect Alvar Aalto’s winning entry in an architecture competition (1928-1929). The site of the building was a sandy terrain in the middle of a pine forest, and was considered a healthy location. The main building was placed on the highest point of the area, and oriented in a north-south direction. The functions of the building – the patient rooms, sun balconies, common rooms, maintenance and technical spaces – were each placed in their own wing. In particular, the patients’ social areas and rooms were oriented in the most favourable direction with regard to light. The various wings meet at a central connecting node, where the most important internal circulation routes are located. All buildings are white-rendered, forming an impressive contrast to the dark green fir trees of the forest landscape. The burial chapel (the so-called Rose Cellar), the water-pumping station, and the biological water purification plant were placed at the edge of the sanatorium grounds.
It’s the human approach than the technical abilities of the structure that have been well recognised by the professionals as well as others. Aalto treated the structure as one of the healthcare devices and ensured that the building would promote healing and rehabilitation of tuberculosis patients. Further, the homes of doctors and employees are treated as isolation wards, for privacy and rest to the workers. The main block oriented to south-southeast and rest rooms, a terrace full south, Aalto makes maximum use of light and healing properties of the sun to facilitate rehabilitation of patients. Indoor rest rooms offer impressive views over the landscape and landscaping which prevents excess heat during the summer. During those days it was believed that light, air and hygiene were the best medicines for the treatment and curing of tuberculosis and Aalto’s design ensured that the building provided plenty of them.
Inside the rooms, equipped for two occupants, the detailed design of their components provides maximum comfort to the patient, such as through the indirect provision of artificial light, the color of the ceiling painted dark green to avoid glare, or even the placement of heating on the roof to avoid direct radiation, and the careful design of the toilets, whose geometry minimizes the potential noise caused by its use.
The design and construction of sanatorium coincided with the advent of Modernism. The sanatorium was nominated to become a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2004. However, the application was later on withdrawn.