Southwest Finland Agricultural Cooperative Building

1928
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Photo: Gustaf Welin / AAM
  • PlaceTurku
  • Completion 1928
  • Decade1920s
  • PeriodConstructing the identity of a newly independent nation
  • Year of selection1993

 

1927 was a year of record building construction in Turku and many of the old buildings in the neoclassical part of the city centre were demolished to make way for modern residential and commercial buildings. The Southwest Finland Agricultural Cooperative arranged an architecture competition in January 1927 for a multipurpose building in which were to be placed not only the premises of the rural organisations but also those of the city theatre and various associations as well as commercial premises and residential apartments.

A young architect from Jyväskylä, Alvar Aalto, ordered the competition documents on 18.1.1927. Even though the competition ended already on 25.2., Aalto won with his proposal “Acer”. The competition victory took him to Turku, because the implementation of the huge complex on the corner site of the streets Puutarhakatu and Humalistonkatu required the presence of the architect. When the Southwest Finland Agricultural Cooperative building was completed in December 1928 the Aaltos were living there.

The brick-construction, five-storey building fills the entire plot. In the middle of the rectangular building was an open courtyard. Aalto’s competition entry represented the Nordic Classicism of its time, with opulent decorations. He worked on the drafts in the spring of 1927, and during the construction reduced the amount of facade decoration. On the upper part of the smooth-rendered facade towards Humalistonkatu are the letters reading “Lounais-Suomen Maalaistentalo” (Southwest Finland Agricultural Cooperative Building), on either side of which are acanthus friezes as a reminder of classicism. The horizontal effect of the new architecture was further accentuated by the rhythmic placement of six-paned Dutch Crittall-Braat windows and steel-profiled exterior doors. The horizontal look was further emphasised by the row of lamps on each side of the concrete-framed shop display windows on the street level and the canopy above them.

On the Humalistonkatu side of the building is a recess marking the main entrance, with a black marble stairs, built by the Turku stonemason workshop K. J. Forsström, leading to the offices and apartments. Along Puutarhakatu is a second recess with a row of three doors as the entrance to the theatre. The lobby, with its marble stairs, red walls, black metal decorations, and velvet upholstered doors, is partly gone and the theatre stage was destroyed by fire in 1954.

Aalto furnished the street-level shops and the restaurants on the first floor, designing even the smallest details. Also the furniture for the premises of the bank, Länsi-Suomen Osake-Pankki, was made in accordance with drawings by Aalto. The tables in the banking hall were made by the Turku company O.Y. Sorvimo and the tubular steel chairs by Auran Rautateollisuus OY. The lamps were Danish Poul Henningsen models.

German Breuer tubular steel furniture was acquired for the two-storey space of the Itämeri restaurant on the side facing Puutarhakatu, but the wooden tables and chairs with curved backrests and legs designed by Aalto were adaptations of the ancient Greek klismos chair. They were made by O.Y. Huonekalu- ja Rakennustyötehdas A.B., that is, the inventive furniture manufacturer Otto Korhonen, who was Aalto’s most significant partner during his Turku period. The restaurant interior was changed in 1949 in accordance with a design by Carin Bryggman, but at the same time Erik Bryggman designed the radical alterations to the façade, that is, the two-storey-high windows of the restaurant facing Puutarhakatu.

Apart from one large multi-paned matt-glass window, the metal-framed windows of the residential and commercial floors were changed to wooden ones during the period 1945-59. Primarily the stairwells – to both the residential floors and the kitchens, together with their lifts – are relatively well preserved.

The last major alterations to the building were designed by the architects’ office Casagrande & Haroma in 2003, when the interior courtyard was given a glass roof. Seating areas were created in the courtyard for the residents, and small apartments were built to the attic space. At that time there was also a desire to partly restore the original appearance, and the row of windows modified by Bryggman was returned to its original appearance. The most important restoration in the interior was to the theatre foyer with its festive marble staircase.

 

Helena Soiri-Snellman

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Aalto, Alvar (1929). ”Lounais-Suomen Maalaistentalo, Turku”. Arkkitehti 6/1929.
Pakoma, Katariina (2003). Alvar Aalto, Lounais-Suomen Maalaistentalo, Turku 1927–28. Rakennushistoriallinen selvitys. Helsinki: Alvar Aalto Säätiö.

 

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