Suur-Merijoki Manor – the Jewel of Finnish Art Nouveau
large exhibition hall
Suur-Merijoki Manor in Viipuri Province was a Finnish Art Nouveau masterpiece, a ‘total work of art’ that became one the most famous Finnish homes of its era. The exhibition reawakens the former glory of the perished manor designed by the young architect trio Herman Gesellius (1874–1916), Armas Lindgren (1874–1929) and Eliel Saarinen (1873–1950).
Suur-Merijoki Manor was commissioned by Swiss-born Maximilian Neuscheller (1860–1919), a wealthy, cosmopolitan businessman based in St Petersburg who travelled widely and was a knowledgeable patron of the arts. In 1900 Neuscheller purchased the Suur-Merijoki estate on the Karelia Isthmus, a popular vacationing spot among the St Petersburg elite. Two years later he enlisted the services of the promising Finnish architect trio to design a summer villa for himself and his family.
Gesellius, Lindgren and Saarinen founded a three-man architectural practice in 1896, while all three were still undergraduates. They made their first major breakthrough as designers of the Finnish pavilion at the Paris World’s Fair. Wealthy Neuscheller offered the young architects a unique opportunity by giving them the chance to design a ‘total work of art’ in the Art Nouveau style, sparing no expense, complete with trimmings such as furniture and textiles.
The architects were assisted by a large team of artisans, painters and sculptors, including Eric O. W. Ehrström, Väinö Blomstedt and Gabriel Engberg. The manor was under constriction from 1902 to 1903.
Neuscheller died in the aftermath of the Russian Revolution in 1919, and the estate was sold to the Finnish government in 1927. The Finnish Air Force was the estate’s main occupant until 1939. The manor was badly damaged during the Winter War, but some of its furnishings were salvaged and evacuated to Finland. The estate was relinquished to the Soviet Union in 1944. Today there is nothing left of the once-splendid manor but rubble and ruin.
The exhibition is produced by the Milavida Museum. The version seen at the Museum of Finnish Architecture will highlight original watercolour sketches from the museum’s collections.
Suur-Merijoki Manor – the Jewel of Finnish Art Nouveau was produced by the Milavida Museum. The version seen at the Museum of Finnish Architecture focuses on drawings. The exhibition was curated by Ilona Koivisto and Mari Lind from the Milavida Museum, with the MFA’s curated by Anna Autio.
The Museum of Finnish Architecture has a special relationship with Eliel Saarinen. The collection of Saarinen’s original drawings donated to the Finnish Association of Architects in 1952 was the “founding capital” marking the birth our museum, and to this day it remains our most significant collection of drawings. The very first exhibition hosted by the museum was a memorial retrospective dedicated to Eliel Saarinen in 1955. The first exhibition was held at Kunsthalle Helsinki, as the museum was officially founded one year later, in 1956.
Over the years, we have steadily acquired further drawings for the collection, both in the form of donations and purchases. Our experts have systematically searched for specific works to round out the collection, which currently comprises over 500 drawings.