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A thesis about Finnish Mökkis and therefore Finnish saunas

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Guest post series continues. Please welcome Louise who is looking for you to help fill out her survey about Finnish Mökkis. Welcome Louise!

My name is Louise Werner, I am a French German architecture student from the ENSA Strasbourg, currently writing my thesis about Finnish Mökkis and therefore Finnish saunas.

My German grandparents bought a Mökki when my father was a child. I spent all my summers there, in the middle of the forest. I consider it as my second home as I partly grew up there. As I literally fell in love with the Finnish culture and nature it was clear to me that I wanted my thesis subject to be related to Finland. Even though Alvar Aalto is one of my favorite architects, almost all architectural thesis about Finland have been written about him. That is why I wanted to write about something less known in France, something I could personally relate to: Finnish Mökkis.

Child living in the moment, and Finnish Mökki (in background).

Several themes can be analyzed in the study of the mökki

Indeed, throughout my research I have learned that the mökki is actually a fairly recent phenomenon dating from the end of the 19th century which was initiated by civil servants and the bourgeoisie as a place of relaxation in contrast to their daily work and life in the city. The first cottages were spacious and well-equipped and could almost be compared to villas. In the 1920s, the idealization of outdoor life in Finland led to a rapid development of the bus network throughout the country. As a result of this new accessibility, the journey to the mökki could be made by public transport and from the 1940s onwards there was a huge development of this type of housing, which was now accessible to middle-class people. Subsequently, the increase in the standard of living allows every person, even those with low incomes, to acquire a mökki. These are often more modest, without water or electricity, but they are sufficient for their function as an escape from the city. In the sixties, we witnessed a new boom with the reform of the working time law, which freed Saturdays and thus allowed people to leave the city for a weekend.

Size changes of the mökki

The mökkis gain in size and comfort and the prefabricated cottages begin to appear. Two types can be identified in the development of mökki. Some are modernized to the stage of a single house: equipped kitchen, electricity, internet and running water. For others, the culture of the modest cottage without the comfort of the house remains a real luxury. The question of comfort will therefore play an important role in the analysis of the mökki. However, regardless of its quality and comfort, for all its occupants the mökki is seen as a perfect sanctuary in which hierarchies, stress and professionalism are left to the city. This is explained by the relationship to the environment, to the wilderness of this atypical habitat.

It is on this theme that my dissertation study will focus. I would like to analyze this architecture by analyzing the feelings that the users give to the space in comparison to their main residence. By analyzing these feelings, I would also like to analyze the experience of the space, the relationship to the environment and the culture and identity associated with this space.

A good amount of firewood, sauna Mökki in background

Sauna vs. mökki

Through this analyze I also wanted to focus on the sauna as a mökki almost always has a sauna. In researching the subject, I discovered that, in contrast to the mökki, there was a lot written about the sauna and that it was the first Finnish habitat. It dates back to the Bronze Age when temperatures were so low that people built the sauna before their house to withstand the weather. It was originally used as a living space for its users: cooking, washing, washing, healing, and giving birth. Until today it represents an essential part of the Finnish identity. Indeed, the sauna became an emblem of the young nation when Finland gained its independence in 1917. This “mentality” of the sauna is not only beneficial for the body but also for the spirit. A certain equality reigns in the sauna through an uninhibited nudity putting all people on the same level regardless of their social classes. This spirit of equality is synonymous with a space of trust, emotion, a space in which body and mind rest and confide in unison.

In order to establish a spatial and temporal framework, I would like to analyze the current mökki, however, very little has been written on the subject. This is why I decided to conduct a survey among Finnish people directly through an online survey which you will find the link to below. I am also interested in any historical information, testimonies about Mökkis.

Link to the survey is here.

A view from a Mökki. Simple living.
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