Traditional peasant houses with their outbuildings still leave their mark on the provincial landscape. With the accumulation of peasant wealth, the stylistic features characteristic of Ostrobothnian houses developed to their peak. The largest of them are comparable to the manor houses of their time elsewhere in Finland. The Kosola House is a building heritage site that wishes to draw attention to the sustainable features of traditional construction.
DISTINCTIVE FEATURES OF A SOUTH OSTROBOTHNIAN HOUSE
An Ostrobothnian house is the result of a centuries-old traditional craft that reached its technical peak in the late 19th century. Its distinctive features are classical proportions that form a harmonious whole. Ostrobothnian houses are high. Two-storey buildings are typical in South Ostrobothnia – but one and a half storey houses are quite high as well. The width is traditionally determined by the natural length of the log, whereas the length mainly depends on the number of living rooms and chambers. They are usually located symmetrically on both sides of the porch on the long side of the house.
Symmetry is also apparent in the proportions and alignment of the windows with respect to one other. The gable is often decorated with a triangular gable window or a half-moon lunette window. Temporal and local variations in the details of eaves, weatherboards, doors and porches are part of the nature of Ostrobothnian houses.
FOR THE SAKE OF SPLENDOUR AND DURABILITY
An authentic Ostrobothnian house is a very well-functioning whole. It has been designed as durable and long lasting. Its log frame makes it highly adaptable – it can be extended, shortened, raised, lowered, and moved in part or as a whole. It can be repaired whenever needed at some point over time.
The solid timber logs and other natural building materials used in an Ostrobothnian house are clean and safe. They are breathable, meaning they are able of absorb and release moisture – so the structure is capable of drying. Breathability balances the humidity and carbon dioxide content of room air, which improves the quality of indoor air and the health of the residents. When a house is eventually demolished – sometimes even after hundreds of years – the building materials used in it can be recycled or returned to the cycle of nature. A traditional Ostrobothnian house therefore has all the characteristics expected of ecologically sustainable construction today.
The upward-widening shape of the houses is a South Ostrobothnian specialty. The traditional weatherboarding and Falu red colouring did not become widespread until the end of the 19th century. However, not all houses that can be identified as Ostrobothnian are homogeneous or similar to one another. They come in different designs and sizes.
The most characteristic traditional features can be found in the large living room, which has sturdy beam logs on the ceiling and a large fireplace wall next to the door. The furniture in the living room – such as a plate cabinet and a cupboard, a table and chairs, as well as a corner cabinet and fixed wall benches – are all in their customary places, which also shows certain regional variation. The traditional living room also has a bunk bed or two, often as fixed furniture. The sense of space and light is created by the proportions and the view across the rooms up to the other end of the house. The furniture also used to be characterised by very distinctive local designs and decorations, based on which the origin of old furniture can be identified to the accuracy of 2 to 3 boroughs.
There are no institutions in Finland for building heritage and traditional construction whose funding could support them in any greater extent. New construction is done everywhere following the same modernist design, which makes the landscape homogenous and dull. The provinces are constantly losing their distinctive architectural heritage. What is the future of the Ostrobothnian house?
The Kosola House aims to find financial means through business to promote the attractiveness and recognition of the built cultural heritage and to encourage others as well to use, present and study the building heritage sites. A living tradition also requires continuity through new construction. The appreciation of locality is growing, and authenticity is a new measure of quality for an increasingly larger number of people. Traditional, long-lasting and organic solutions can mean adopting a sustainable lifestyle, which also comprises aspects such as green energy, recycling, do-it-yourself approach to things, self-grown food, and a connection to nature.