Born in 1906 in Finland, Olav Hammarstrom 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 Hammarstrom, Breuer, and Eero Saarinen & Associates, including all of the textiles for the General Motors Technical Center.
Throughout the next 20 years Hammarstrom 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.
Marianne Strengell vacationed with the Saarinen's on the Cape twice in the 1930s, though not in Wellfleet. When she was working for Skidmore, Owens & Merrill in the mid 1940s, she met an architect, Anne Dickey, who showed her photos of a place at Wellfleet. Marianne and a couple of friends drove out, picking Olav up (in Boston) on the way. Olav and Marianne were married there in 1949, built their house in 1952 and spent their later years in Wellfleet year-round.
Hammarstrom designed many houses, studios and additions on the Outer Cape as well as St. James the Fisherman Chapel, an AIA award winner.
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
View into living room of the Hammarstrom House through ‘barn door’.