Born in 1906 in Finland, Olav Hammarstom received degrees from the University of Technology, and the ‘Athenaeum’ in Helsinki. In 1940 he led Alvar Aalto’s firm while Aalto was working abroad. In 1945 Hammarstrom was in the difficult position of being one of the few Finnish architects to have survived the war and was put in charge of some very large projects including designing an entire mining town in the northern territory. Frustrated at having so much responsibility without the time or budget to permit interesting design he sought a chance to escape abroad.
In 1948 he had an opportunity to join Aalto in Boston to supervise construction of Baker House dormitory at MIT. Soon after he married fellow Finn, Marianne Strengell, who led the textile design department at Cranbrook Academy in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan. Strengell was one of the 20th century’s most influential textile designers, executing many commissions for the Ford Foundation, and the Saarinens.
Throughout the next 20 years Hammarstom worked with Eero Saarinen, The Architects’ Collaborative (founded by Gropius), and had a private practice which produced more than forty houses and seven churches. He also worked with the United Nations in Japan, the Philippines and Jamaica after the war, adapting local, traditional bamboo technology to constructing Modern furniture of his own design.
Hammarstom and Strengell probably first came to Wellfleet with the Saarinens, who summered here starting in the late 1930s. Hammarstrom built their house in 1952 followed by eight others which have been located, as well as St. James the Fisherman Chapel, an AIA award winner. They spent their later years in Wellfleet year-round.
on the Outer Cape
Hammarstrom House, Wellfleet, 1952
Chapel of St. James the Fisherman, Wellfleet, 1957
Edwards House, Eastham 1960
Robert Levy House, Truro 1962
Thayer Brooks House, South Orleans, 1962
Dorothy Hoist House, Wellfleet, 1964
Robt. J Lifton House, Wellfleet, 1964
Xavier Gonzales Studio, Wellfleet, 1957
Chester W Nimitz House / Addition, Wellfleet, 1966-74
Gruenbaum Addition, Orleans, 1967
Women’s Day Magazine House Type, Santuit, MA 1967
F Taylor Ostrander House, Wellfleet, 1967
Beatrice H. Thomas, Art Studio, Truro, 1967
Harry Hollander Studio / Residence, Truro, 1969
Harold Harris Studio / Residence, Truro, 1969-71
Melman House, Wellfleet 1970
Dennis Must House, Wellfleet, 1974
Charles Clapp House, Truro, 1974
Dr. James Spencer House, Wellfleet, 1974
The Hammarstroms’ own house was built in two sections, one insulated and enclosed, containing the bedrooms and kitchen. The warm weather section, containing a summer dining and living areas, can be opened entirely to the elements by means of two large barn doors on tracks. Strengal wove all the textiles including rugs, upholstery and curtains.