Ämmä Hydropower Plant
Nuojua hydropower plant (link) in the municipality of Vaala was completed in 1955. The residential area of Nuojua, also known as Nokkala, was built at the same time on the Nokkala heath about half a kilometre southwest from the power plant. The area consists of five single-family houses, two terraced houses and a service building. The area is built on top of a wooded ridge with a beautiful view to the river.
The buildings are composed in a hierarchical line formation from southwest to northeast. The single-family houses, the so-called engineers’ houses, are at the back of the road and so, at the top of the hierarchical order. The service building is located on the north side of the area. There is also a sauna built on the shore of the bay, south from the area.
Aarne Ervi and his office designed all the buildings, interiors and landscaping. Nuojua is one of the finest examples of Ervi’s housing areas and also fairly well preserved and maintained. The buildings are placed carefully in an open, park-like landscape that separates the buildings from the surrounding wilderness. Ervi himself wrote about the importance of the site in the Finnish Architectural Review 11–12, 1949:
”Residential areas, but especially Nuojua, are usually built on a beautiful but also favorable sites, that, for their part, have greatly inspired the architect.”
At Nuojua, the frames for the buildings were assembled from Betocell – lightweight concrete blocks. Façades were cladded with brick and rendered white. Buildings have tile roofs and on-site casted concrete foundations while the window frames, doors and detailing were built out of wood.
The architecture can be described as functionalist with regionalist, almost romantic, undertones. Because of the materials, the scale and the overall disposition, the buildings have a composed relationship to the surrounding nature. It is also noteworthy, how Ervi used porches and verandas as liminal, transitional, spaces to connect the interior with the exterior.
The two largest houses are reserved for the engineers and have the best and most private lots. Engineer’s house 1, at the end of the Nokkalantie, is probably the most luxurious and spacious in all of the houses built for the whole project. The hierarchical two-storey order of the house also reflects the values of the time with separate floors for the dwellers and for the service staff.
There was also a more substantial segregation between the residential areas of Nuojua and Jylhämä, also designed by Ervi. Basically, this meant that the executive branch of the company was housed at Nuojua, while the workers lived at Jylhämä.
Text: Samuli Paitsola