For the fans of Nordic design, 2022 might be an ideal year to visit Helsinki, as the city celebrates its 10th anniversary of being named the World Design Capital. Ten years on, the outcomes of the design year are seen everywhere in the city. They include various services provided by the city government, the vibrant maritime Helsinki with shorelines open to the public, new types of business and events, and grassroots activism.
2022 will see a strengthening of the domestic and international position of Helsinki as a city of compelling events and notable cultural venues. Several new first-rate venues will open doors to visitors, and new cultural policies and grants will create conditions for a wide range of leisure activities.
Finlandia Hall is under renovation this year, while a new modular building, Pikku Finlandia (meaning Little Finlandia), will serve as a temporary venue in the meantime. Pikku Finlandia was designed by Aalto University’s architecture student Jaakko Torvinen.
The temporary hall will be a living room, so to speak, for everyone. With its cafés and terraces, it will serve as an arena for live music, festivities and congresses. The building’s design concept was inspired by a Finnish boreal forest with views through trees. Whole untrimmed tree trunks serving as load-bearing columns create a forest-like atmosphere, while the design utilizes nature’s own engineering and so reduces processing. When Finlandia Hall repones, Pikku Finlandia will be moved to another location in Helsinki to serve as a school or a day care center.
Finland is a country where dance has been given special focus, and some buildings have been erected with the sole propose of honoring the art of the moving body. Tanssin talo (House of Dance) by JKMM and ILO Architects is Finland’s first landmark venue promoting dance. Inaugurated on the 2nd of February 2022, Tanssin talo will operate as a community and platform combining all the diverse forms and contents of dance. The building is located next to one of Helsinki’s most important cultural venues, Cable Factory, which operates in factory buildings dating from the 1940s. The architecture of the new building takes its inspiration from dance, playing with illusions of lightness and heaviness.
Dance House Helsinki offers a unique environment for performing and experiencing dance, as well as circus. The facilities enable large international guest performances and domestic productions than before. Erkko Hall is the largest performance space built for dance in the Nordic countries: the stage is 25 meters wide and 16 meters deep, and the total height of the stage is 24 meters. The venues at Dance House Helsinki are adaptable in terms of technology and space, and they are suited to a wide range of events and occasions. In 2022, many internationally renowned choreographers and dance companies will be visiting and performing at the venue.
1. Finlandia Hall and Book Palace
The white building stands immaculate against a pristine blue sky, its structure being reflected on the quite waters of the Töölönlahti Bay. The contours of the construction are at times straight, at times jagged, but the effect is nonetheless the same on the viewer: awe. Alvar Aalto’s Finlandia Hall in Helsinki is only one of the many architectural masterpieces the city has to offer.
In 1962, the Helsinki city authorities commissioned Aalto to design a concert and congress building as the first part of his great center plan. The Finlandia Hall was inaugurated in December 1971. Responsible for the design of the interiors at Finlandia Hall were the interior designer Pirkko Söderman and the architect Elissa Aalto.
The Hall was adapted to Aalto’s center plan, with its main facade turned towards the projected Terrace Square and the car entrance on the bottom level, which was intended to continue in the form of a tunnel to other cultural buildings along the shore of Töölö Bay.
Another fine example of Aalto’s aesthetics is the Academic Bookstore, or Book Palace, in downtown Helsinki. The plot’s owner, Stockmann, held an architectural competition for the design of the building in 1961–62, which Aalto won with a proposal using the same ideas he had used for another building nearby, the Rautatalo.
The Book Palace was finished in 1969 and is still in its original use; the Academic Bookstore moved in to the building in October of the same year. Alterations have been made to the interiors. Some of the rooms on the upper floors originally used for offices have been taken over for the bookshop. Nowadays, there are two cafes. The one in the second floor is partly furnished with original Aalto furniture from the Rautatalo cafe.
2. The Central Railway Station
Besides the numerous buildings in the city designed by Aalto, the functionalist master, Helsinki is one of the finest Art Nouveau or Jugendstil cities in the world. Some of the best known architects from the period include Eliel Saarinen, Herman Gesellius, Armas Lindgren, among others.
One of Saarinen’s best known constructions is the Central Railway Station, which has now been redesigned into the Scandic Grand Central Helsinki, while keeping its Art Nouveau unique flavor. Located in the old administrative buildings of the railway station, the hotel has 500 rooms together with meeting and banquet facilities.
The Helsinki Central Railway Station, and its administrative buildings, are amongst Eliel Saarinen’s most important achievements in Finland and a masterpiece of Finnish art nouveau. The building, completed in 1919, has been listed amongst the most beautiful railway stations in the world and one of the most visited architecture destinations in Finland.
Only a few years after the railway station was completed, Saarinen won second prize in the competition to design the Chicago Tribune skyscraper and thereafter moved permanently to the United States. Later his son, Eero Saarinen, continued the family´s triumph of iconic terminal buildings by designing JFK airport’s TWA Flight Center (Terminal 5) in 1962.
Experts believe that the great Finnish architect might not have minded the repurposing of the building. In 1918, he had expressed his masterplan for Helsinki’s city center, which included moving the railway station two kilometers to the north. He outlined the growth of Helsinki on a European level as a metropolis with boulevards and monumental buildings. The plan was never realized and the railway station quickly became an iconic symbol for the whole of Helsinki.
3. Majamaja and Nolla eco-cabins
Finland is a country with thousands of lakes and vast expanses of forests. The culture is one of kinship with nature, of respect for the environment. Helsinki has launched a new strategy to steer the development and to ensure responsible tourism that conserves the delicate nature of the city’s archipelago. One clear example is the Majamaja eco-cabins. The cabins are a showcase of nature-oriented ways to enjoy seafronts as well as exemplifying high-quality Finnish wood architecture.
Standing on scenic rocky shores and offering sea-views over the Helsinki archipelago, Majamaja off-grid cabins present a unique and minimalistic living experience with modern comforts including a shower and a kitchen. The cabin designs of Majamaja integrate green technology with timeless architecture.
Majamaja’s holistic and environment-oriented approach comes from a combination of wood architecture and patented off-grid technology. The units use solar power, and water is treated for reuse in a closed loop system.
The Nolla cabins are another example of how tourism can offer close contact with nature, while being responsible for the impact on the environment. The Nolla (zero) cabin, created by Finnish designer Robin Falck, has a minimal environmental impact in terms of carbon dioxide emissions. It has been built from sustainable materials and is designed for a simple lifestyle with minimal to no emissions, taking into account the surrounding nature in every respect. The Nolla cabin encourages people to consider how modern solutions and innovations could enable sustainable cabin living.
According to the architects, the compact and mobile cabin does not require a construction permit and it has been designed to use building materials as effectively as possible. The cabin is the size of a small bedroom and can be assembled and transported without heavy machinery, leaving its environment nearly untouched.
Located on the island of Isosaari (large island), the cabins offer a unique opportunity to explore the biodiversity of one of the outermost islands off the coast of Helsinki. Isosaari served as a military island for several centuries, and the old fortresses act as reminders of the island’s history as a military base.
From the rocks on the southern shores of Isosaari, one can admire the wide sea view across the Gulf of Finland. On windy days, waves of several meters high hit the island. The island offers spectacular sunrises and sunsets. In the spring, several bird species nest on Isosaari. White-tailed eagles and seals are also frequent visitors in the area.
Isosaari is only about a half-hour boat ride away from the Helsinki Market Square. The water taxi M/S Taxen to Isosaari leaves from the harbor area opposite the Stone of the Empress monument by Helsinki Market Square at 11.45 a.m. The boat returns to the mainland from Isosaari harbor at 10.45 a.m, and the journey takes approximately 30 minutes.