Civilising the Workplace

… radical forms of the building type, both urban and rural, that suggest new ways of working and constructing the buildings.

Peter Davey, Helin Workshop, 2011

UPM Biofore House

The predecessor of the new headquarters was built a hundred years ago at the corner of Eteläranta and Esplanadi streets, the best place at the time. The landowners of the Töölönlahti district, the city of Helsinki and the Finnish state, offered today’s best sites especially to internationally successful Finnish companies. UPM seized the opportunity and organised the first international invited design competition concerning a row of new office buildings. In that phase, the detailed plan had to be followed very precisely. It was like dancing in armour, said Pekka Helin later in an interview with Minna Joenniemi. (YLE 17.4.2015)

HOTT House of Travel and Transportation

The blue HOTT building near the Helsinki Airport was designed and constructed for the companies of the Finnair Group. The floor plan is flexible: the spaces can be adapted to meet the varying needs of different tenants and organisational changes during the projected hundred-year life cycle of the building. The area of one storey can be divided into as many as six separate office premises. Nearly 900 employees work in the building.

Metsä Group / MELA Headquarters

Clad with exposed-aggregate panels in the typical manner of its time, the old three-volume office complex of the Metsätapiola real estate company had stood in south-eastern Tapiola in Espoo near the Länsiväylä thoroughfare from 1974. In summer 2009 the Metsäliitto co-operative, owner of the property, initiated a project for the renovation of the complex, covering the design and completion of a new office building as well as the renovation of the highest, eight-storey volume, especially as regards its facades and ground-floor spaces. The lower volumes were demolished and their part of the site was parcelled out for residential construction.

Tieto Keilalahti Campus

The Tieto ICT company started operation in 1968 by the name of Tietotehdas Oy. At first it served mainly as the computer centre of its owners, but nowadays its target is to be the leading software and services company in the Nordic Countries. Retrofitted into the former Nokia House, the Tieto Campus with its cutting-edge solutions supports the target. Technology plays an essential part, because the company wants to use the properties of the spaces in telling about its supply of services and in offering possibilities for user experience. Seaside location adds to the attraction: the landscape is present in the building.

Finnforest Modular Offices

Wood is a fascinating construction material that offers new challenges despite being the oldest and most tested. Its emotional impact on the human mind continues to be more positive than that of other materials; it is so coded in our consciousness. When reasonably processed, it is an authentic, live, local product of nature, which requires little energy. It is renewable, binds carbon dioxide and stores heat. It is easy to shape and repair.

Nordea Campus

A harbour railway was built in the early 1860s from Pasila along two streets to Suvilahti to serve the Helsinki Eastern Harbour. It started operation in 1863, soon after Finland’s first passenger railway (Helsinki–Hämeenlinna) had been completed. In the following decades the railway was extended north and south. It underwent reconstructions up to the 1960s but then gradually its operation terminated, and in the early 2000s it was finally demolished.

Nokia House

The Nokia House, situated in Keilalahti, Espoo, is bordered by busy thoroughfares in the south and west (Länsiväylä motorway, Kehä 1 ringroad). The project started in 1983 with an invited competition won by Pekka Helin and Tuomo Siitonen, whose proposal, titled Kide, was an ensemble composed of six low towers. The commencement of design, however, was postponed because of taxation policy and appeals related to the detailed plan. While the project was suspended, the organisational structure of Nokia changed from a diversified company into a telecommunications company and its turnover and number of employees grew. At the turn of 1994–95, options for new premises were searched by means of a new competition.

Lepakko Ilmarinen

A paint and varnish factory built a warehouse on land leased from the City of Helsinki in the Ruoholahti district in 1940. When the western motorway (Länsiväylä) was completed in 1965, the building was left behind traffic flows, and when the lease terminated two years later, the factory moved all its operations away from Helsinki. At the same time 500 occupants of a demolished night shelter were left out in the open and because of the severe night frosts of that autumn many froze to death. This called for urgent measures, and so the former paint warehouse became an emergency accommodation for homeless alcoholics, known as Liekkihotelli (‘spirits hotel’) and Lepakkoluola (‘bat cave’). The shelter was emptied in summer 1979 and was unused for a while, until a group of youths and the Live Music Association ELMU occupied it. The building, named Lepakko (‘bat’), housed, for instance, the Radio City, the Viirus Theatre and the Aira Samulin Dance School. The lease that ELMU had made with the city terminated in 1999, and the association got compensatory premises in the Hietalahti district. Because of new traffic arrangements the Lepakko building was demolished.

UPM Eteläesplanadi 2 Renovation

The former UPM headquarters was located at the south-western corner of the Market Square on a site bordered by three streets. The original building stock on the site consisted of L-shaped Empire style buildings of two storeys and pertaining narrow intermediate buildings. The only building in the neighbourhood remaining from this construction phase is Eteläranta 16 located on the eastern side of the city block; it shows the scale of the cityscape before the 1910s.

Wärtsilä, Siltasaari

In the early 1800s there were two separate islands in the place of today’s Siltasaari district. Bridges connected them to each other and to the mainland both southwards and northwards. In the 1876 map of Helsinki the smaller island had merged into the bigger one. The middle area of the island was occupied by a wallpaper factory and the eastern shore by a swimming house. Today’s Kallio district north of the island was almost unbuilt, apart from a number of machine shops. In 1846 the city had parcelled out the land north of Siltasaari into villa lots and industrial lots and the land further away into cultivation areas and pasture areas. The filling of the strait began in 1886, and a worker community began to form on the northern side of the southbound bridge. Later known as Puu-Kallio (‘wooden Kallio’), the district was almost entirely razed to give way to blocks of flats in the 1960s and 1970s.

Baltic Square Office Building

The Itämerentori building project was initially schemed as a joint building of the Finnish Innovation Fund Sitra, the Academy of Finland and the Finnish Funding Agency for Innovation Tekes. A large atrium was planned to symbolise their synergic objectives, a space for a scientific exhibition serving the whole cluster of IT-related know-how and companies based in Ruoholahti. However, the Academy and Tekes ended up elsewhere, the atrium was leased to various services and the project was carried out as the premises of Sitra and the PricewaterhouseCoopers Finland auditing firm, which had been involved in the project from an early phase.

Eteläesplanadi Savoy House, renovation and extension

The commercial and office building (called Teollisuuspalatsi, ‘industrial palace’) of the A. Ahlström company was built at the corner of two streets south of the Esplanadinpuisto park in 1937. It was designed by Valter Jung, who had an architectural practice together with his brother Bertel Jung. The site had been earlier occupied by a two-storey wooden building, where the first Finnish-speaking school in Helsinki had started operation in 1867. The street facades of the Ahlström building are yellow mineral rendering; the ground floor is clad with red Espoo granite. In this way Valter Jung took into account the mineral rendered Lassila & Tikanoja commercial building and the sandstone facade of the bank across the east side street.

Former Main Post Office Renovation

Helsinki’s new gas factory started operation in the place of a former cabbage patch next to Espoo customs in 1860. At the turn of the 20th century, the factory moved to eastern Helsinki, and for some time the gasholder housed a roller skating rink, until the start of the Second World War, when 400 Russian artillerymen were stationed there. In the 1920s the site was proposed to be assigned to a new main post office: the old building had become unbearably crowded and a new one was badly needed. Finally, in 1934, an architectural competition was organised for the Helsinki Post and Telegraph building. The entry submitted by 26-year-old Jorma Järvi together with two years older Erik Lindroos won second prize. No first prize was awarded, so it was decided that the building be constructed to the design of Järvi and Lindroos. However, the National Board of Building decided to appoint an older architect, Kaarlo Borg, as a supervisor. His influence can be seen above all in the vertical, monumental design of the facades facing west and north.

Ahlström Salmisaari Office Building

Salmisaari was defined as an industrial area in the land use plan of the Pro Helsingfors master plan in 1918, and it was connected to the mainland by means of landfill. The construction of the area was started by the Finnish Alcohol Company, which was established in 1932 following the repeal of Prohibition. Nowadays the former Alko headquarters and factory building serves as Helsinki Courthouse. Later on, the Salmisaari power plants A and B (1953 and 1984) were built on the north-western side of Porkkalankatu street. The brick facades of these industrial buildings defined the scale and townscape of the district. The coal supplies of the power plants were moved to underground storage space in 2004, and it became possible to plan new projects for the vacated land. The first project to start was the Ahlström Salmisaari building.