Finnish Sports Institute

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Photo: Rafael Roos / MFA
  • PlaceVierumäki
  • Completion 1937
  • Decade1930s
  • PeriodConstructing the identity of a newly independent nation
  • Year of selection1993


Vierumäki, the Finnish Sports Institute, is a national sports coaching and educational institute, and is often referred to as the nation’s “official” sports institute. The architectural competition held in 1930 for the design of the complex was won by Erik Bryggman. The competition jury had been impressed by his advantageous placement of the main building, the appropriate utilisation of lighting and beautiful vistas as well as the external appearance that corresponded to the function of the institute.

The complex of carefully designed architecture is situated amidst pine heathland. Teaching and student accommodation are concentrated in the white buildings of the campus area, which over the decades has been supplemented with further buildings. “When large crowds visit the wonderful ridge landscape, they simultaneously get to know the beauty of the new rationally-oriented architecture”, stated architect Gustaf Strengell when the 1930s construction phase was completed. The institute, located far from the allure of the cities, was set amidst ideal natural conditions: a ridge formation along the northern branch of the Salpausselkä ridge, expansive flat heathland and numerous lakes surrounding the area. The institute’s main building, together with a sauna building and the earliest residential buildings, are located by Lake Valkjärvi, the shoreline of which has been gently shaped and the paths along its edges are paved. Views open up from the main building “over ridges forested with conifers and crystal-clear lakes”, as Bryggman himself characterized the natural landscape.

The main building represents the ideals of modern sports education that developed during the 1930s. It was received with much fanfare in the press with headlines such as “The white house of Finnish sport” and “The great celebration of our nation’s physical education”. In 1937 the immediate surroundings of the main building were finalized in accordance with Bryggman’s plan. In addition to the main building, Bryggman designed several other buildings, including the lakeside sauna (1931), as well as the sauna that would later replace it, residential buildings (1930s and 1940s) and a swimming pool (unrealized proposal, 1954). Also various sports fields were built on the institute’s grounds, based on the master plan for the area also by Bryggman. The construction and renewal of the sports fields was, and still is, continuous, and there has been further expansion of the area with large-scale construction. To prepare for the design project, Bryggman acquainted himself with similar complexes in Poland, Germany and Denmark. The construction work was carried out by inmates from a temporary prison in Lahti.

The main building was named after Aleksi Kaskela, who was selected as director of the institute in 1928. The Kaskela building houses the management, canteen, accommodation and education facilities. While the facades have been preserved almost in their original state, many changes have been made to the interior, including converting the gym into a cafe and breakfast room. In 1939-45 the main building functioned as a military hospital, and consequently renovation work began in 1947. In the early 1950s the interiors were completely repainted. Bryggman’s daughter, interior designer Carin Bryggman, was responsible for the interior design. The institute’s refurbishment continued in 1954-55 when, for instance, the roofs of the ball-games hall and kitchen wing were changed to pitched roofs in accordance with a design by Bryggman. In connection with the so-called Pihkala annex in 1988, the old gym was converted into a library plus administration facilities.

The main building was protected in 1988 under the Building Protection Act. The protection applies to the external architecture, the main features of the internal layout and the original parts of the interior.


Hilkka Högström

Bryggman, Erik (1937). ”Suomen urheiluopisto, Vierumäki”, Arkkitehti 3/1937, 81–87.
Juurtola, Tauno (1977). Suomen Urheiluopisto 1927-1977. Lahti: Suomen urheiluopisto.
Kaikkonen, Kari (2007). Suomen Urheiluopisto 80 vuotta. Liikunnan edelläkävijä. Vierumäki: Suomen urheiluopisto.
Nikula, Riitta et al. (toim./ed.) (1991). Erik Bryggman 1891–1955: arkkitehti arkitekt architect. Helsinki: Suomen rakennustaide museo.