back to home


I named this abstract model Aalto, after the architect of the building this is inspired from. Incidentally, ‘aalto’ is Finnish for ‘wave’, which undoubtedly played a role in the sinuosity of the villa’s free-forming moments.

This project explores the inspiration and concept behind Alvar Aalto’s Villa Mairea, an experimental house he designed for the Gullichsens. Given almost a free hand, Aalto took precedent from Wright’s Fallingwater and fashioned a stunning guest home of his thoughts and aspirations.

In this model, I chose to focus on the compelling contrast between the rigid mimicry of man-made ‘machine’ and the free-form of nature echoed in the home. 

The verticality of the columns mimic the ocean of forest surrounding the house, creating a shutter effect not unlike one you would experience when wandering the nearby forests. Aalto purposefully fashioned each column to be of varying height and thickness in order to avoid “artificial architectural rhythms”.


Using a combination of laser-cut Russian birch plywood and white 3D printed PLA filament, I evoked the shutter-effect of the trees in the rigid columns seen all throughout the home. 

In contrast, I took the topographical changes from the site and elevated it to represent the free-form inspired moments within the home, present in elements such as the iconic fireplace, entrance awning, and pool. 

The guiding principle for this project was “rigid by section, free-form by plan”.

The dowels are of slightly different widths and randomized heights. I specifically designed it so that the structure is held together by gravity and friction alone. No glue was used in the assembly of the model.

Below are progress screenshots of the design process in Rhino. Material tolerances and thicknesses are all considered for the fabrication.

I first located the original site plan for Villa Mairea and traced all the topography lines.

Set within a constraint of a 12 x 12 x 12 inch volume, I spaced out the topo lines and crated surfaced from them. After extruding them to account for plywood thickness, I created varying dowels for the rigid section and shutter-effect of the trees.

This is the final iteration in Rhino.

Before assembly, the plywood, originally a light toasty brown, was painted a darker wood to contrast the white of the 3D printed dowels. 

Below are images of the shutter effect of the shadows cast through the model.

back to top

Rhino Topo Dowel-1
Rhino model-1