“Tonight we celebrate the result of bringing together a drummer and a dreamer.” So went the introduction at last Friday’s gallery opening for Project Santaranta: Building Dreams at the Embassy of Finland in Washington, D.C. The drummer in question is Simo “Sipe” Santapukki, and the dreamer is Eric Lloyd Wright, architect and grandson of Frank Lloyd Wright, who, in a perhaps unlikely pairing, built a guest house in Finland for the 34-year-old member of the band Apulanta.
Of course, the drummer was also a dreamer; Santapukki became infatuated with Fallingwater at an early age, and dreamt that one day he might live in a house that espoused the Pennsylvania masterpiece’s principles. As the result of failing to find what he wanted among architects in Finland, Santapukki sought out the one person he thought might be able to help him realize a relationship between building and nature: Frank Lloyd Wright’s grandson, Eric, who practices organic architecture in Malibu, Calif.
Following a visit to Santapukki’s site in Finland, Wright returned to his studio with hundreds of pictures, from which he designed the recently completed guest house and sauna, as well as a main house that has yet to be built. “Santaranta”, the house’s name, stems from a play on Santapukki’s’s last name, and translates to “sandy beach”—a reference to its wooded, waterfront site. “One of the important things about organic architecture is the relationship to the site,” Wright says. He used native birch and local stone in the design to give the house a materiality that would blend with its surroundings, to the point of even detailing windows with dried moss for insulation.
During the construction process, it quickly became apparent that this project—the first Lloyd Wright building in Europe—transcended its function as a retreat for Santapukki; the drummer began to receive letters expressing interest from architectural devotees in over 20 countries, as well as from tour groups who wanted to visit and watch the building progress. Thus began a parallel process of documenting the construction while it was happening, with photographers from Finland and the U.S. each shooting a season, while Santapukki helped with much of the labor himself. Santapukki explains that it was a unique experience, being both builder and owner: “I felt like the right hand of Eric, making his piece of art,” he says.
The photographers involved include Jarmo Glader, Jere Hietala, Laura Riihelä, Lauri Rotko, and Carolyn Russo, who organized the Washington exhibition, as well as Alias Studio’s Antti Karppinen and Mikko Pitkänen. Their photographs make up a collection, sorted into seasons, of 36 images that were UV-printed on wood to further emphasize the connection between the house and its natural surroundings.
The exhibition is free and open to the public from Sept. 22–30 on Saturdays and Sundays from 11 a.m.—4 p.m.; it will travel to the U.S. Embassy in Finland later this year. • finland.org