Finland is known as the land of a thousand lakes, untouched forests, and innumerable islands. However, the country also offers some very exciting, mainly modern, architecture. These are some of the reasons why I enjoy traveling to Finland in the summer months every once in a while in order to savor its nature and architecture.
At this point I would like to mention the feeds of the brothers Samuel (@eljackson) and Daniel Taipale (@dansmoe) that offer wonderful insights into the Finnish landscape.
Many buildings are in the areas surrounding the capital Helsinki, but of course there is very interesting architecture to explore outside of the capital, like the city library in Seinäjoki, the Metso library as well as the Kaleva church in Tampere, the Maritime Center Vellamo in Kotka, or the library in Hollola.
Below I would like to introduce you to some remarkable buildings which I came upon in my travels through Helsinki, and I would like to invite you to go on a tour and get to know these buildings for yourself.
Starting at the Central Railway Station “Rautatientori” – which, by the way, is also worth seeing – and going in a westerly direction, you reach the “Narinkkatori” Square. One can still clearly recognize that it was once used as a bus terminal. The square is surrounded by shopping and business centers as well as the cultural center Lasipalatsi and is one of the most boisterous parts of the city. If you are looking for some peace and quiet in the middle of all this activity, you will appreciate coming upon the “Kamppi Chapel of Silence”. It was built in 2012 when Helsinki held the title “World Design Capital”, and impresses with its remarkable wooden construction and outer shell. In order to take photos there I recommend the early afternoon to evening to avoid backlit shots.
Address: Simonkatu 7 Helsinki, Finland
Architect: K2S Architects
Follow the street “Mannerheimintie” past the Kiasma, the museum for contemporary art, and further on towards the Olympic Stadium. You will pass the Finlandia Hall by Alvar Aalto, which is clad in white Carrara marble and has some exciting surprises in store. The lighting conditions mean that the side closest to the lake “Töölönlahti” is suited for shootings in the morning and the Mannerheimintie side is more suitable for visits in the afternoon.
A short detour to Lutherinkatu 3, ca. 600 m west of the Finlandia Hall, you will find the so-called Church of the Rock (“Temppeliaukion Kirkko” in Finnish). The church, excavated and built directly into a granite rock, is one of the outstanding buildings of Finnish architecture of the 1960s.
Further north along Mannerheimintie, half-way between the Finlandia Hall and the Olympic Stadium, is the Finnish National Opera. It offers some details worth seeing on the southern side, but unfortunately some patina has formed on the white facade over time.
Not far from the philharmonic hall is the area surrounding the Olympic Stadium opened in 1938, whose distinctive feature is the almost 73 m high viewing tower as well as the cascading, wooden outer shell. Here the morning is also recommended for detailed pictures of the eastern side and the afternoon for photo sessions on the tower side of the stadium.
Address: Paavo Nurmen tie 1, 00250 Helsinki, Finland
Architect: Yrjö Lindegren, Toivo Jäntti
The ship dock in the suburb of Katajanokka lies in eastern Helsinki and services the ferries to Stockholm and Tallinn. Close to the ship dock, on Kanavakatu, is the so-called Katajanokka House. The residential building follows the curve of the street and offers this view when looking up at midday.
Address: Kanavakatu 7–9, 00160 Helsinki
Architect: Arkkitehdit NRT
The Meilahti suburb houses the hospital with the same name, which is part of the clinics of the University of Helsinki. Its entrance area was redesigned by the local architectural firm Lahdelma & Mahlamäki in 2010.
Address: Meilahden Sairaala, 00290 Helsinki
Architect: Lahdelma & Mahlamäki Architects
The water tower in the suburb of Roihuvuori was built in the 1970s and is visible form afar and conspicuous because of its mushroom shape. On closer inspection, the aesthetic construction details underneath the cup are easily noticeable. The tower is in a park and therefore easily accessible. A visit in the late afternoon is recommended.
Address: Sahaajankatu 12–14, 00880 Helsinki
Engineer: Consulting Office Arto Pitkanen, Helsinki
I would like to mention one more church situation outside the city center in the northern suburb of Kannelmäki. Designed in 1968 by the architectural husband and wife team Marjatta and Martti Jaatinen, the church impresses through its symmetrical main body and a very harmonious roof construction. Although the church is surrounded by old trees, it still offers plenty of room for an extensive photo session with the building, especially around midday.
Address: Vanhaistentie 6, 00420 Helsinki
Architect: Marjatta and Martti Jaatinen.
Lastly I would like to also give some explicit advice to those who will explore Finland far north of the region of the capital.
More than 800 km north of Helsinki, at the Arctic Circle, is Rovaniemi, the capital of the Finnish part of Lapland. The city was nearly completely destroyed by German troops during the Second World War. For its reconstruction, the architects Alvar Aalto, Viljo Revell and Yrjö Lindegren first took on urban planning tasks before Alvar Aalto designed the so-called “Center for Culture and Administration” in the period from 1965 to 1988. This impressive ensemble comprises three buildings: the town hall, the city library and the Lappia House, which can be seen on the picture below.
Address: Hallituskatu 7, 96100 Rovaniemi
Architect: Alvar Aalto
Some of you might be surprised by this, but there is delightful architecture even far beyond the northern polar circle.
290 km north of Rovaniemi is the town of Ivalo. At the end of the town, on the way to Inari, directly on the banks of the Ivalojoki, is the church “Ivalon kirkko”. It was designed in1966 by the architects Kauko Kokko and Laura Järvi-Larkas and presents an impressive contrast to Lapland’s harsh nature.
Address: Kirkkokuja 1, 99800 Ivalo
Architect: Kauko Kokko & Laura Järvi-Larkas
A further 40 km north – directly at Lake Inari – lies Inari, the center of Sami culture in Finland. Besides an abundance of nature, the place offers interesting buildings, for example the Sami museum “Siida” and the newly built “Sameting”, the parliamentary representation of the Samis in Finland.
And here is where our tour through Finland ends. I hope that I was able to give you some inspiration for your next holiday in Finland and wish you lots of fun in exploring some the buildings.
Works as a creative thinker in the internet sector and contributes as a photo columnist to AD Architectural Digest Germany.