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House Karkiainen, Espoo, Finland

October 16, 2015

Sanaksenaho Architects

A small family house planned around a sheltered triangular courtyard makes the most of a tight, rocky hillside site in Espoo, Finland. A deceptively simple profile belies the spaces within - calm, peaceful, warm and filled with natural light which spills in through the many windows and skylights.

By Rachel Ang

The Karkiainen House sits on a small property in a densely populated region of  the city Espoo, on Finland’s southern coast. The site came with many constraints: it is overlooked by neighbours living in close proximity, and its terrain is a rocky hillside. Sanaksenaho Architects transform these constraints into exciting possibilities which drive the design, resulting in a unique, striking dwelling which contrasts and blends into its woody surroundings.


In plan the house resembles an asymmetrical letter A with the top lopped off, offset, and re-joined by a deck. The chunk cast adrift becomes the garage, and the timber deck is a simple threshold welcoming one into the home. Through the door and into the vestibule – this is the pinch point of the ‘A’ – but despite it being the narrowest part of the plan, the double-height ceiling, views of the courtyard beyond, and skylight above carve out a special moment.


From here the house branches out in two wings – the legs of the A – which are both separated and connected by a triangular decked terrace. Keeping the spaces narrow in plan, structured around a central courtyard, and punctured with windows, floods the rooms with natural light without sacrificing privacy.


High ceilings and large windows, which draw the forest in, imbue the rooms with a sense of spaciousness and peacefulness.


The first floor consists of the bedrooms, a top-lit bathroom and sitting room. There is a distinct material change – the grey concrete downstairs is replaced by soft timber floorboards, indicating a passage from open entertaining to more private spaces, as well as reflecting the dwelling’s forest setting.


An uncovered timber bridge reaches out, connecting the master bedroom and sitting room. It acts as a platform for viewing the landscape beyond, as well as a striking contrast to the all white exteriors. Crossing the courtyard at an acute angle to the rest of the house, from the exterior it completes an abstract and beautiful composition.

Sanaksenaho Architects


Photography: Tuomas Uusheimo

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