Merihaka Housing Area

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Photo: Helifoto / MFA
  • PlaceHelsinki
  • Completion 1973–1985
  • Decade1970s
  • PeriodThe rise of the welfare state
  • Year of selection2017


Built on a former industrial site and landfill, Merihaka is a representative example of urban development from the 1970s. The area comprises a compact group of high-rise residential buildings bordered by lower residential buildings, with a total of approximately 2300 residents. In addition to Itä-Pasila, Merihaka was the second residential area in Helsinki built in the 1970s in one go and where a philosophy of compact urbanism was applied. Compared to Itä-Pasila, however, architecturally Merihaka has better structural detailing and forms a more cohesive whole in regard to the cityscape.

Pedestrian traffic was raised above vehicular traffic on to a deck level, where also the area’s services, such as a grocery store, kindergarten and sports hall, are located. In accordance with the ideals of the time, the architects’ goal was to create an urban milieu on the deck level that would promote social interaction. Merihaka is bordered by a very busy road, Sörnäisten rantatie, which leads traffic over Hakaniemi Bridge towards the Helsinki city centre. Merihaka is bordered on two sides by a seafront promenade and the sea. On the south shoreline is a marina in front of a small park. The negative side of the area’s proximity to the sea is the harsh weather conditions, as a result of which the pedestrian deck is almost always windy.

In Merihaka the predominant building material is, typically for the era, concrete. The austerity of the concrete and the monotony of the large buildings are softened somewhat by the careful attention to detailing. The façades consist of prefabricated concrete elements with distinct diagonal profiling and which originally were unpainted. The profiled concrete is repeated in the facades, giving a vertical rhythm to the elements. Aluminium balcony railings and wooden window frames are painted in bright yellow, blue, red and green. The massiveness of the tall buildings is lightened by the steel-framed glass at the entrance levels. The flat pedestrian deck is articulated by geometric concrete planting boxes. In accordance with the town plan, 30% of the open deck area of the residential plots is reserved for plantings.

Ever since its completion, Merihaka has been criticized for its crushing scale and right-angled monotony. It can not be considered, however, an anonymous prefabricated suburb. The area has a strong maritime identity and a 1970s look that has remained cohesive. In particular, many of the people who live in Merihaka appreciate the unique features of their place of residence.


Anna Autio

Kråkström, Erik (1965). ”Kone ja Sillan alueen järjestelyehdotus”. Arkkitehti 10–11/1965.
Laine, Olavi  (1973). ”Merihaan asemakaava- ja talosuunnittelu”. Rakennustaito 9/1973.
Rauske, Eija (2012). ”Merihaka”. Lahti, Juhana; Paatero, Kristiina & Rauske, Eija (toim./eds.). Rantaviivoja. Asuinalueita meren äärellä / Shorelines. Residential Areas by the Water. Helsinki: Arkkitehtuurimuseo.