Workers’ Housing for Kone ja Silta Ltd
Hvitträsk was a joint project of young architects Eliel Saarinen, Armas Lindgren and Herman Gesellius of the Gesellius–Lindgren–Saarinen Architects. Together they created the atelier home to Kirkkonummi, 25 kilometres west from Helsinki. Hvitträsk was designed and constructed at the time when most of the top artists in Finland built countryside atelier homes. The most well-known atelier homes, along with Hvitträsk, are Akseli Gallen-Kallela’s Tarvaspää in Espoo, Emil Wikström’s Visavuori in Valkeakoski and the lake Tuusula artist community.
The location on the shore of the lake Vitträsk, in Kirkkonummi was chosen based on an easy access from Helsinki. The Helsinki-Turku railway had a stop just a few kilometres from the plot. The name chosen for the atelier home, Hvitträsk is the old Swedish version of the lake’s name Vitträsk, meaning ‘White Lake’. The national romantic style atelier home was planned to be a complete art-work. Some of the most famous decorators and artists of the time implemented interior decorations to the house. The construction started in 1901 and Hvitträsk was completed in 1903. The spacious atelier was situated in between the two wings of the main house. Eliel Saarinen’s family housed the southern wing and Armas Lindgren’s family housed the northern wing. A separate building ‘Lilla Villan’ [Little Villa] was built for Herman Gesellius and his sister, textile artist Loja Gesellius.
Some of the most well-known works of Gesellius-Lindgren-Saarinen, such as the National Museum were designed at Hvitträsk. Gesellius–Lindgren–Saarinen also designed a private residence Hvittorp for pharmacist and music publisher Robert Emil Westerlund near Hvitträsk. Hvittorp was completed in 1904.
The architectural practice Gesellius–Lindgren–Saarinen lasted only two years after Hvitträsk was completed. Armas Lindgren moved out of Hvitträsk in 1905. Eliel Saarinen had separated from his wife Matilda Saarinen in 1904. Later Matilda Saarinen married Herman Gesellius and Eliel Saarinen married Gesellius’ sister Loja. After Herman Gesellius death in 1916, Eliel and Loja Saarinen claimed the whole house. Their both children, Eva-Lisa ‘Pipsan’ and Eero (architect Eero Saarinen) were born at Hvitträsk. The northern wing was destroyed in fire in 1922. It was rebuilt in 1923–1929, based on the design of Eero Saarinen. Eero Saarinen designed the new wing when he was just a teenager.
Eliel Saarinen’s family moved to the USA in 1923 but they kept Hvitträsk as their residence in Finland for decades. The years 1949–1968 Hvitträsk was owned by businessman Rainer Vuorio and his wife Anelma Vuorio, who refurbished and modernised the building. After Vuorios’ bankruptcy in 1968, the bank Kansallis-Osake-Pankki sold Hvitträsk to the Gerda and Salomo Wuorio Foundation. Hvitträsk was opened as a museum in 1971 after the foundation had refurbished the building. Since the year 1981 Hvitträsk has been owned by the state.