In the town of Ekenäs, at the southern edge of Finland, lies a gem of Finnish architecture: Villa Skeppet, designed by the architect Alvar Aalto for his friends Göran and Christine Schildt. Open to the public since 2021, the villa is currently accessible all year round.

Built in 1970, Villa Skeppet was one of Alvar Aalto’s (1898-1976) last projects – and the smallest detached house he ever designed. Its original name was ‘Schildt’, after the writer and researcher Göran and his wife Christine Schildt – friends of Aalto’s for whom the villa was intended. But it was soon nicknamed ‘Villa Skeppet’, in reference to its ship-like shape (‘skeppet’ means ‘the ship’ in Swedish). Aalto refused to be paid for the ‘house of friendship’, which he designed to persuade Göran and his wife to spend more time in Finland.

Last year, Villa Skeppet opened to the public. Everything, from the architecture and the interior design to the garden with the waterlily pond, is conceived in a uniquely personal way. Villa Skeppet is not just a household converted into a museum; it’s a place where architecture goes hand in hand with culture, history, nature and human relationships.

Villa Skeppet: the ‘House of Friendship’ between Göran Schildt and Alvar Aalto

Villa Skeppet’s living room with a large picture window.

“It is a home, more than a house,” says Jennifer Dahlbäck, Villa Skeppet foundation’s activity manager. The villa’s domestic feeling is also shaped by Christine Schildt herself, who not only supports the Christine and Göran Schildt Foundation, but advises on the interior décor and maintenance of the property.

“National and international tourists – mostly Finnish and Swedish, but a lot of Americans as well – have already started to pay a visit to this architectural gem,” says Dahlbäck. A guided tour of the villa is available in Swedish, Finnish and English, as well as a rich cultural programme catered for a wide audience. Meanwhile, the foundation is developing and launching digital tools, such as a new history-based game for children and youngsters. All said, Villa Skeppet explores architecture’s connection to nature, reflects intimate relationships, and unites aspects of Nordic and Mediterranean culture under one roof.

Villa Skeppet: the ‘House of Friendship’ between Göran Schildt and Alvar Aalto

Göran Schildt and Alvar Aalto in front of the construction site of the University of Jyväskylä (1952). Photo: Roberto Sambonet

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