Lasipalatsi Commercial Building

1935
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Photo: Heinrich Iffland / MFA
  • PlaceHelsinki
  • Completion 1935
  • Decade1930s
  • PeriodConstructing the identity of a newly independent nation
  • Year of selection1993

 

In 1933 architecture students Arvo Aalto, Niilo Kokko, Olavi Laisaari, Viljo Revell and Heimo Riihimäki founded the company Oy Lasipalatsi Ab with the intention of renting a former army barracks plot in order to erect a temporary commercial building. At the same time, they were actively engaged in the town plan proposal for the area. In 1935 the Finnish retailing cooperative SOK together with the butter export cooperative Valio bought the company from the architecture students and commissioned Kokko, Revell and Riihimäki to design the temporary building.

Lasipalatsi (“Glass Palace”) was a new building type in Finland, a bazaar, which combined leisure-time and commercial functions. Business premises with entrances on both sides of the building and a restaurant sitting 700 diners were intended to serve the forthcoming visitors to the Helsinki Olympic Games at the busy intersection of Mannerheimintie and the bus station. The impressive Bio Rex cinema forms one wing of the U-shaped building that wraps around a public square. The building was a total work of art, with well-known artists and designers participating in its careful planning and implementation.

Lasipalatsi represents a light and youthful Functionalism, which is reflected in the playful massing and the streamlined façades, combined with lively, even humorous, detailing. The significance of Functionalist buildings was particularly great in Finland’s young architectural heritage. The architecture of Lasipalatsi connotes a belief in the future of its era and an admiration for new technology. The building’s reinforced-concrete post-and-beam system is an early example of a new structural system. Lasipalatsi was also a pioneering work in heating, ventilation and air-conditioning. The electrical and lighting design also represented new thinking.

The restoration of Lasipalatsi was completed in 1998 (Pia Ilonen, Minna Lukander / Alli Architects). The short heyday of Lasipalatsi before its decay, which had begun already in the late 1940s, became the starting point for the restoration. With the exception of the cinema, there was little remaining of the original interiors and furniture. The different building parts of the interiors and the exterior facades were conserved, reconstructed and copied on the basis of original drawings and photographs.

There are very few significant interiors in Helsinki that have been preserved unchanged over the decades. Although it was not possible in the 1998 restoration to return fully the original spatial layout and appearance, it is nevertheless similar to the original in overall layout and atmosphere. By 2018 a part of the Lasipalatsi will be incorporated into the new Amos Anderson Art Museum, the major part of which will be built beneath the public square.

 

Pia Ilonen

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Högström, Hilkka (1996). Lasipalatsi, rakennushistoriallinen selvitys (1936–1998).
Högström, Hilkka (toim.) (1999). Lasipalatsi. Helsinki: Lasipalatsin Mediakeskus Oy – Lasipalatsi Media Centre Ltd.
Ilonen, Pia & Lukander, Minna (1999). ”Lasipalatsin peruskorjaus / Renovation of the Glass Palace in Helsinki”, Arkkitehti 2/1999.
Ilonen, Pia (2004). KALEIDOSCOPE. Planning and Implementing the Restoration of Lasipalatsi: The Whole Picture. Design-based licentiate thesis, Helsinki University of Technology.
Kokko, N; Rewell, V. & Riihimäki, H. (1937). ”Oy Lasipalatsi Ab”. Arkitekten 3/1937.

Projects by same architect

Keijo Petäjä
1953
Heimo Riihimäki
1951