Nestled deep in the hills near San Diego, sits a privately owned house, recently constructed as a family home in the 21st Century, reminiscent of Alvar Aalto’s 1930s masterpiece of architectural design, Villa Mairea in Noormarkku, Finland.
Inside of Aalto’s original Villa Mairea there is a space known as the ‘Piano Room’ where Alvar Aalto’s wife Aino Maria Marsio-Aalto (herself an architect and designer) is said to have enjoyed playing the piano in the home of Aalto’s friends and clients Harry and Maire Gullicksen for whom Villa Mairea was created. The piano inside of Villa Mairea is an original Poul Henningsen designed PH Grand Piano produced in 1930s Denmark.
PH Pianos were delighted to produce a new PH Grand Piano that is as close as possible to the PH Grand Piano from the 1930s that is currently on display in the Designmuseum Denmark.
The original Villa Mairea was designed to inspire a variety of delicate sensory experiences – a harmony of gentle curves and tactile materials that create a feeling of lightness flowing throughout the house – and the PH Grand Piano is a perfect reflection of this design ethos. The delicate lid of the PH Grand Piano reminds us of that most ephemeral of creatures – the butterfly, while the refined curve of the piano legs create an illusion that the body of the instrument itself almost appears to float on air.
Alvar Aalto’s Villa Mairea was built primarily as a Summer house, designed to be connected closely to nature and the materials used to realise the design are wood, stone and in some areas the steel columns that support the house are finished in wood or bound with rattan. The PH Grand Piano is constructed of celluloid and leather as well as the traditionally expected wood and iron – these softer, more natural materials are used by Poul Henningsen in his piano design in a similar way to Aalto’s wooden strips and rattan are utilised architecturally: to create a structure that sits effortlessly inside an environment that is a reflection of the outdoors.
The newly constructed home in San Diego reminds us of Alvar Aalto’s original and now iconic architectural design. The word ‘Aalto’ itself means ‘wave’ in Finnish and so it is a wonderful poetry that this newly created home is now situated in an environment close to the ocean and known for it’s natural outdoor beauty and that the heart of Poul Henningsen’s piano design continues to beat inside.
Photograph: Yoshihiro Makino