During the construction of the town hall in nearby Säynätsalo, Alvar and Elissa Aalto discovered an attractive lakeshore site for their summer house. They built a studio house there in 1952–53, to serve both as a leisure home and as a test site for a series of architectural experiments, in line with the Aaltos’ idea that architects should have the opportunity to try out new ideas, as in a laboratory.
The house is a modest structure, built partly with rejected bricks from the Säynätsalo site. It consists of two obliquely placed wings, one of which contains the living room and the other two bedrooms and a bathroom; the kitchen is at the intersection. Two high brick walls, rendered on the outside, suggestive of ruins, complete the picture. Together with the two wings of the house, the walls enclose an atrium-like courtyard, with a sunken fire pit in the middle.
One experimental test was the use of various kinds of brick and ceramics. The test was performed by dividing the atrium walls and floor into some fifty test fields. A wooden wing with two bedrooms was added in 1953. The ensemble further included a shed, an experimental sauna, and a landing stage for the motorboat ‘Nemo propheta in patria’.
The small log sauna with a turf roof was built in 1953–54. It stands on the lakeside with four boulders as foundation and only a minuscule changing room in front of the genuine, sooty ‘smoke sauna’.
Alvar Aalto designed the boat ‘Nemo propheta in patria’ in 1954 for travelling to his summer home on Muuratsalo island. As in a military landing craft, the prow is based on the gradient of the lakeshore, and equipped with an out-turned gunwale to facilitate landing in wilderness conditions. The entire forward part, containing benches and the wheel, is open to the sky; a small cabin with two berths and a powerful engine are situated in the aft. The craft was built by the local carpenter Väinö Jokinen. The Aaltos built a small harbour for the boat below the summer house, and another one in Säynätsalo where they left their car. Today the boat is stored under a canopy on the site in Muuratsalo.
Muuratsalo Experimental House is listed on the DOCOMOMO Finland registered selection of important architectural and environmental modernist sites.