Jan 25, 2015

A moment with architect Osmo Lappo

Some time ago we were honored to invite professor emeritus Osmo Lappo, the architect of our home, for a visit. Lappo, born in 1927, is one of the central figures of modern concrete architecture in Finland. Among his most recognised work is the Vekarajärvi barracks in Kouvola, Finland, which was built between 1966-1975 and is a great representative of the concrete brutalism era emphasising construction materials and techniques. The Vekarajärvi barracks has received a recognition of an important architectural and environmental site both by Docomomo and the Finland National Board of Antiquities. More generally, Lappo's work includes a wide variety of residential, commercial and public buildings. 

Architect Lappo

For our pleasant delight, Lappo arrived with several original photos by photographer Simo Rista form 1960's brilliantly illustrating the early days of our apartment building. Browsing through the photos with Lappo's guidance took us right back to the very early days of the project, when Loviisa Agnisbäck, the owner of Ängskulla estate sold the land to Väinö E. Koskinen. Koskinen was the owner of a construction company responsible for building Niittykumpu region for the City of Espoo.

Koskinen had originally met Lappo in 1950's when they were working together in another project in Helsinki. As their earlier collaboration had been very successful, Koskinen invited Lappo to be the lead architect also in the Niittykumpu project.

View from backyard (photo by Simo Rista)

At that time, Danish architecture had a significant influence also in Finland - for example, many buildings were made of brick and had an atrium terrace. Lappo, as well, was following the prevailing trends of the 1960's, and was to include these elements in his design.

Back to the sixties (photo by Simo Rista)

It was not only our residence Lappo and Koskinen were working on in Niittykumpu, but actually the entire region including several different apartment buildings. To add variability and prevent buildings looking too similar, after the initial drafts Lappo assigned different project architects from his studio to work with each building. This was an approach he adopted while working in Viljo Revell's office during the early years of his career.

Plan for Niittykumpu region (original photos by Simo Rista)

A crucial consideration was the quality of the site where the foundations of buildings were to be laid. Basically, the buildings were located to areas where conditions were favourable. Also, for some apartments the chosen design reflects the site conditions - in one of the buildings, namely the "Pillar Building", has no basement and the ground floor is replaced by a string of massive pillars, as the site was too soft to support these structures.

There were already some houses on one side of Niittykumpu which needed to be taken into account when considering the areal set up. Therefore, the goal was to complement the existing infrastructure and surrounding nature as well as possible, which had a big influence on certain decisions. 

South view to Niittykumpu (photo by Simo Rista)

The construction process of our apartment building was quite fast. The design was completed during summer 1963, construction work started immediately and the apartments were ready in 1964. According to Lappo, very few changes were made during the process, as the plans were comprehensive and thus followed quite faithfully. At that time, Koskinen's company did not have the supporting infrastructure or cranes to build by using prefabricated elements, so all the work was conducted on site manually.

First, as soon as the design fundamentals were locked, the team started by building models to be able to work with the details, including e.g. the atrium terrace. The models were also useful when Koskinen was discussing with potential buyers. 

Original model, back view (photo by Simo Rista)
Original model, side view (photo by Simo Rista)

On top of the hill, the street and rock limited the shape of the building resulting in a serrated form in front. As a result, the back of the building followed the same serrated pattern, also complementing the surrounding nature as well as the existing small buildings further down the hill very well.

Protected front entrance (photo by Simo Rista)

Serrated form from the back (photo by Simo Rista)

The original windows were made of regular window glass units. Each window was also divided in three parts to enable efficient cleaning from both sides. The outside window glass could be opened to clean the inner surfaces, but the glass inside was fixed to the frame to prevent the escape of warm air. A few of the ten apartments still have the original window set up, but in our apartment the glass has been replaced by contiguous double-glazed insulated glass units, which no longer need to open for cleaning.

Discussing windows (original photos by Simo Rista)

None of the atrium terraces were covered, as the decision was left for the future owners to do what they wanted - first to decide whether they wanted a roof or not, and then the design of the roof. Also, originally all units were drawn with a second door in the living room leading to the atrium terrace. However, as the buyers were able to make changes during construction, it may have not been built to all apartments.

 Original windows (photo by Simo Rista)

In general, the upper level in all units was quite similar. More buyer specific adaptations were made downstairs, resulting in more variability between the units. Back in 1960's, Finnish tax regulations made it beneficial to limit the actual living area of an apartment to 119.5 m2. This meant the downstairs ceiling height and window size were limited, and in official plans the space was named an area for e.g. arts and crafts or storage. Some buyers added a cold room, and consequently the waste heat from cooling the cold room was captured to contribute to downstairs heating. Half of downstairs are was left unbuild, as at that time it would have been very expensive to do the mining and blasting work required.

Downstairs model (photo by Simo Rista)

Lappo's team was also responsible for the kitchen design, and the cabinets and other structures were manufactured by Turenki Sugar Factory carpenters (a contact of Koskinen). At that time, there were only a few kitchen manufacturers and thus existing contacts who were not necessarily specialised in kitchen manufacturing were used.

Kitchen area back then (photo by Simo Rista)

After a few hours of great discussion and revision of piles of pictures and plans it was time to say goodbye. For us, it was really a true honor and an absolute pleasure to meet professor Lappo and discuss his work, our home, which clearly plays a very significant role in our lives right now. We really appreciate he so kindly took the time to meet us. It is not very often you get an opportunity to dig a bit deeper to historical details, and especially with the guidance of the architect himself. 

Architect Osmo Lappo

  1. Interview with Osmo Lappo (November 23, 2014)
  2. Osmo Lappo introduction by the Museum of Finnish Architecture (January 25, 2015) 
  3. Niittykumpu by Osmo Lappo, Sanna Lahti 2003, Master's Thesis, Helsinki University of Technology
  4. All original pictures by Simo Rista 1963-1964 published with a permission of Osmo Lappo, who owns the rights to the photos. Please do not copy or use without permission. 

Atrium cage bird

Never before have we thought of an obvious benefit of an atrium terrace, especially combined with a bit of snow. When you are busy and the younger generation is screaming for some fresh air, it is the simplest solution requiring no additional head counts! And perhaps in a few years, the snow really gets cleaned off as well...

A happy cage bird

Jan 1, 2015

Happy New Year!

For the few days of Christmas, we got lucky. The snow came right on time, the day before Christmas Eve, and stayed for about a week. Perfect timing, for a perfect, relaxing, White Christmas. Now on the first day of the New Year of 2015, the refreshing whiteness is unfortunately nearly all gone.

White for a while

Apparently we had been behaving, as Santa was very kind to treat us with presents. There was a specific one, however, which caught us completely by surprise, and just needs to be brought forward here in the blog. For about a year, we have been collecting Arena tableware, and have been desperately short on tea cups and saucers. As the Arenas are no longer in production, they are not the easiest ones to find. But Minna's cousin Anu, who shares our interest on design, had picked up our need, and found two additional sets. Where - we have no idea, but what a wonderful, extremely pleasant surprise! Thank you so much!

Two new Arena sets

We also want to wish you all very Happy New Year, and once again sincerely thank you for your keen and continuous interest. Our New Year's resolution in terms of the Olive Green is that the story will go on and develop: the ups and downs of renovation and restoration will of course continue, so there will be a lot to write about. Currently, we are also working with a story regarding to a recent interview with Osmo Lappo, the architect who has designed our apartment. Additionally, as mentioned before we will be exploring some new avenues in a form of a small business in the future. And last but not least, updates on the blog visuals are on the way - quite exciting!!

So, with the words of Michael Josephson: "Whether we want them or not, the New Year will bring new challenges; whether we seize them or not, the New Year will bring new opportunities." Both of these we foresee and gladly welcome, and hope you will be there to share those with us!

Dec 29, 2014

The Bunker

A few days past Christmas festivities, we are happy to show you the latest advancements downstairs. You may remember the original Man Cave Pekka build two years ago in the small room located next to the bathroom. This room is now serving mostly a storage space and will soon be converted to a guest room, thus meaning that the "Man Cave" functionalities will finally relocate underground, more specifically to the bunker.

Step in and have a peak!

The original table and shelves from the Man Cave have already been reinstalled to the new location and Pekka and has started to build a suspended ceiling. According to our thinking, this seemingly "unnecessary" structure will be important element creating a more "room-like" feel for the Man Cave, rather than the space being just a cellar (as it actually, in reality is). It is all about the details, isn't it?

The first phase of the installation

Similarly to the laundry room, also the bunker has fluorescent tube lighting. What is different between the two is that the main part of the bunker lighting will be hidden behind the ceiling slats.

Hidden fluorescent tube housings

Placing the fluorescent tubes above the ceiling hides the light sources and makes the light penetrate through the slats. On the way down the light picks up a warm wooden tone and creates a cozy, inviting atmosphere.

Light shining through the slats

The bunker will have two separate lighting modes that can also be turned on simultaneously. The first switches on the fluorescent tubes above the ceiling. The second operates the work lights above the table similarly to Pekka's set up in the original Man Cave.

General vs. working lights 

General vs. working lighting 

During a recent visit and the semi-mandatory tour around the apartment, Pekka's aunt wondered if Pekka is having a "slat-period" in his life. Yes, he has indeed built a suspended ceiling in the laundry room using a similar approach and yes, also the downstairs teak wall is made of slats. But rather than Pekka's personal obsession, the rationale revolves more around the warmth and scandinavian look of the structure. So when the decision needed to be made regarding the bunker ceiling, we didn't think two minutes of not adding this mid century twist to the overall slat mix.

Getting there...!

As of today, Pekka has installed about 15 square meters of ceiling. Once again, we quite like how it is materializing.  Over the Holiday break he will continue the project and once there are further concrete results, we will of course post an update for you to review.

Dec 24, 2014

Our Holiday Wishes

Once again, it is time to wish you all Happy Holidays! It has been an eventful year, and now it feels absolutely fantastic to slow down for a while and just concentrate on those things which in the end, matter the most in life: family, friends and quiet moments. 


Building excitement as Christmas is nearing
Learning to sing all those carols I’m hearing
I know there are elves that see if I scream
Behave very nicely or frequently steam.

I whisper to Urho “Santa will be here soon”
We light up the candles, finish chores by noon
Thinking those fun things we did this past year
Done work on the house and travelled far and near.

Playing the piano with mum is a blast
Who cares if the keys and the tunes don’t yet match?
In kitchen I’m always ready to help
Only watching’s not fun, need to try it myself!

The underground chaos is nearing to end
Dad’s building and fixing, teak wall’s being mend
We are crafting a snowman in a bunker brand new
Where both noise and a mess are quite welcomed too!

In day care I’ve made some friends and learned games
We do not slow down for rainier days
With smile on her face can mum close the gate
When going to work she knows I’ll be great!

My brother or sister will be born in the spring
I’ll be really nice, do the big-sister thing
In a few years time we’ll be playing as team
Secret hut in the bunker is just one scheme I see!

Wishing you wonderful Holiday moments
Gingerbread cookies, candles and presents
Hope your road finds what your heart needs the most
And for New Year’s magic you’d be raising a toast!


Focus on the cookies!

Ja vielä suomeksi...

On tullut jälleen aika toivottaa hyvää joulua. Vuosi on ollut vauhdikas, ja nyt on upeaa hetkeksi pysähtyä ja keskittyä asioihin, jotka ovat kaikkein tärkeimpiä: perheeseen, ystäviin ja kiireettömiin hetkiin. 


Jännitys hirmuinen, luukut jo avaan
Jouluisten laulujen sanoja tavaan.
Ikkunan raosta tontut ne valvoo
Olenko kiltti vai nouseeko haloo?

Urhon kanssa me lasketaan jouluun öitä
Jo kynttilät syttyy, vähän jäljellä töitä.
Monta juttua kivaa mahtuu vuoteen tähän
Koti kuntoon tulee, ja on reissattu vähän.

Mamman kanssa on soiteltu “Oravanpesää”
Ja kuvia katsellen muisteltu kesää.
Kun leivotaan, taikinaa haluan mä maistaa
Omat pullat ja piparit uunissa paistaa.

Isi maan alla raataa, usein sirkkeli laulaa
Hiki pinnassa puurtaa, rimat paikalleen naulaa.
Me maalataan, liimataan yhdessä siellä
Eikä sotkua, melua, kukaan nyt kiellä.

Päiväkodissa mukavat puuhat ja pelit
Ei hidasta menoa syksyiset kelit.
Voi hymyillen vilkuttaa aamulla mamma
Ei päivällä huolta se minusta kanna.

Mamman mahassa kasvaa mun veli tai sisko
Sitä silittää aion, en tukasta kisko.
Kun vähän se varttuu, me leikitään kaksin
Ehkä kellariin maja tehdään naruin ja saksin.

Joulun juhlaan toivomme riemua, rauhaa
Tonttujen saloja, puuroista kauhaa
Rentoja hetkiä, yhteistä aikaa
Tähtien loistetta, jouluista taikaa!


Dec 20, 2014

Teak wall - once more!

Never before has a single project required so much effort during the past 2.5 years than the slat wall in the downstairs lobby. Sourcing the teak started nearly a year ago, and since then Pekka has been relentlessly working on the different wall components. Finally, there is a light in the end of a teak tunnel.

162 teak slats

Also, the rest of Project Downstairs is moving forward. A few weeks ago a plumber installed a central heating radiator weighing just under 100 kg, so Pekka's assistance was once again welcomed to allow easy installation. The timing is perfect - the weather is finally starting to get a bit colder. This year winter seems to take forever to begin and even now, in late December, there is no snow in sight in the Southern Finland. But when the snow and cold finally take over we'll be ready: in addition to the radiator the downstairs is secured with 227 meters of floor heating cable underneath the slate.


Pekka has been slaving to finalize the assembly of the slat wall in order to allow Kaitsu, our trusted electrician to finish the lighting (including the led-light system) and installation of the sockets. And as a result of their combined efforts, the darkness turned into light during the first week of December. 

24V transformer ready to be hidden

The slat wall has two openings for a satellite cable and for electricity. The first one is located close to the window on the bottom right corner of the wall. The second one is approximately in the middle of the wall and will be covered by a TV creating a visually "cable-free" outcome.

TV socket before

Pekka still needs to build hatches to cover both sockets. The hatches will allow electricity plugs to pass through even when closed, and they have been cut from the slats located the socket area. Naturally, this is to ensure both the tone and pattern of the grain will be a perfect match allowing a visual continuity.

TV socket. Hatch missing.

The led light was attached in two rows to an aluminium strip on top of the teak slats. Quite an intense moment to see the interaction of the led and the slat wall for the first time...

To the right

To the left

Finally - switch it on! The effect created by the led light is stunning. With a color temperature of 5500K the light reproduces the surrounding colors in a very natural way.

With a trace of disco feel...!

We are extremely pleased with how Project Slat Wall is becoming reality. The overall visual image of the downstairs lobby including slate floor and teak slats is spot on mid century modern. Perfect match to what we originally imagined!

Lights on!

Most of the work including the floor, ceiling and walls is now done. We still lack quite a few small details including for example doors, which might be a relatively considerate next step especially for potential house guests. We also have ambitious plans regarding the furniture and lights, but these are put on hold to balance the budget a bit before rushing into new investments - unless, of course, we run into something absolutely irresistible in some random auction.

Ceiling, floor and walls

Last but not least - a sneak peak of this years Christmas card! As an annual example of the seamless teamwork Minna prepares the layout and text and Pekka has the primary responsibility of the photo shoot. This year, naturally, we wanted to conduct the shoot downstairs and yes, you might already guess who the models (whose willingness for seamless teamwork seems to be a bit variable and require bribing in a growing degree) will be...

Ho ho ho!

Dec 2, 2014

New name, new opportunities: Olive Green!

We have been writing this blog under the name of Olive Green Window for about 2.5 years. Somewhere along the way an idea was born: perhaps one day we'd expand a bit, go beyond just blogging. But evolution takes time, and we did not want to rush things.

During the past two years, it has been a pleasant surprise to see a solid growth in the number of viewers. Opportunities for different collaborations have also appeared. Certain services have also been identified where Pekka's expertise could be valuable to an MCM enthusiast or a DIY soul.

So we decided to start a small business. Naturally, the name would reflect what we have already been doing, so an obvious choice was to name the business after the blog. Unfortunately, to avoid confusion with another local business, we could not choose Olive Green Window.

After a bit of thinking, the decision was to drop the word "window", and go with a simple solution - "Olive Green". Thus the name of the blog will soon be changed to Olive Green, but everything else - the writers, the content and the other key characters, including Urho, will remain the same.

Dear readers, we ever so kindly thank you for your continuous interest, and hope you keep on enjoying what we have to offer!


Minna & Pekka