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Happy homes and stable society. Otto-Iivari Meurman and omakoti in interwar Finland

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The focus of the article is on small single-family houses (omakoti) and their status and significance in interwar Finnish urban planning and the social situation at the time. The idea of omakoti, its international points of contact and practical implementation are viewed through the work of the architect Otto-Iivari Meurman (1890-1994) as a planner of small Finnish towns. Meurman graduated on the eve of the First World War in 1914. After assisting in the office of Eliel Saarinen, Meurman worked as the town planning architect of Viipuri from 1918 to 1937. Later he became the first professor of town planning in the Nordic countries and maybe the most influential planner in twentieth-century Finland. The newly independent Finland experienced a traumatic Civil War in 1918. The article shows how after the war single-family houses and home-ownership were regarded as bearers of social stability and as signs of loyal citizens in the Finnish housing discussion. For Meurman, residential areas were central to the development of society. A nuclear family with children living in a single-family house surrounded by a garden was the normative unit of society for Meurman. His work as a planner gives an opportunity to outline how omakoti became a symbol of the good life and stable society in interwar Finland. Finnish architects sought housing models from Sweden, Germany and the UK. The importance for Meurman of Garden City ideas lay in their flexibility to be used as a way of promoting single-family housing.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: National Board of Antiquities, FI-00101, Helsinki, Finland

Publication date: 2007-10-01

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