Els Slots (The Netherlands):
Paimio Sanatorium is located a few kilometers outside the town of Paimio, within reach of a day trip from Helsinki due to the highway that connects the Finnish capital with Turku. The complex is signposted in Finnish only – look for “Paimio Sairaala”. I had hoped to find a fine lunch spot in Paimio itself, but the center is quite desolate (despite having an interesting old church).
So I arrived at the Sanatorium an hour before the daily afternoon tour started. No problem, as I was able to admire the buildings from the outside and enjoy the sun from one of the benches in the park. I visited on a Sunday afternoon, and all was very quiet. Some of the buildings are used for different purposes nowadays, and the main building has lost almost all its hospital functions. The guide brought the keys to enter, and the 6 of us who had showed up for the tour were the only ones in the building. Later this year, a wing of the building will be rented out to a NGO that supports “Children in Need”.
The tour lasts an hour, and shows some of the peculiar features of the design of the main building. Yellow paint was used to imitate the sunlight, round corners as they are easier to clean. The windows are often enormous, so there’s a lot of natural light and pleasant views of the surrounding pine forest. Some of the rooms have original furniture too, designed by Aalto and his wife. There’s a lot to tell – have a look at my Dutch website for an extensive trip report and more photos.
I really enjoyed my visit, but will this ever become a WHS? Its nomination was withdrawn in 2007 by Finland, after a deferral was advised by ICOMOS. One of the issues was the dilemma whether the nomination should focus on the architecture of Aalto, or on the social history of tuberculosis sanatoria. The Dutch T-List coincidentally includes two similar sites: Sanatorium Zonnestraal and the Van Nelle Factory. The latter is up for debate at the WHC meeting of 2014, and it will be interesting to see how far individual modernist monuments can come.
Date posted: July 2013
Have you been to Paimio Hospital (formerly Paimio Sanatorium)? Share your experiences!