Pihlajamäki Residential Area

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Photo: Pietinen / MFA
  • PlaceHelsinki
  • Completion 1960–1964
  • Decade1960s
  • PeriodThe rise of the welfare state
  • Year of selection1993


Pihlajamäki was one of the first regional construction projects in Finland and the first area in which industrialised building methods and a completely prefabricated-element system were applied on a large scale. Pihlajamäki is divided into two areas. The objective of the architect of the SATO [Social Housing Company area, Lauri Silvennoinen, was to standardise the entire construction process. The construction of the HAKA area was based largely on the in-situ concrete casting technique and partly prefabricated elements.

In Pihlajanmäki the objective was to produce affordable apartments with modern amenities through industrialised processes and flexible standardization. Particularly in the HAKA area, the floor plans of the apartments were innovative and based partly on flexibility. One of the most innovative building types was the terraced block, where the ground-floor apartments had a private courtyard and the upper-floor apartments a private roof terrace. In the SATO area black and white prevailed, while in the HAKA area colour was an important design element. The average floor area for the apartments in the areas was approximately 60 m2.

Pihlajamäki was a watershed in the history of both the Finnish construction industry and housing design. The construction was based in part on a design competition for the town plan, which was won by architect Olli Kivinen. His town plan represented the so-called lung diagram principle, which consisted of five neighbourhood units together with their own local shops and a kindergarten, as well as a shopping centre in the southern part of the area, and the necessary schools in the northern part. The aesthetic resulting from the construction of the area is associated with the aspirations of the time, and one can find parallel phenomena in, for example, the development of abstract art.

Set on a scenic vantage point, Pihlajamäki represented the “forest city” ideology of the 1960s and reflected the aesthetics of large-scale sculptural forms. Panoramic views open up over the city from the SATO tower blocks while the over-long four-storey lamella blocks form a wall demarcating the forested slope. Characteristic for the HAKA area are U-shaped forested courtyards demarcated by large three-storey lamella blocks. After the area was completed the “forest city” ideology and the whole area itself came under intense criticism.

Pihlajamäki was Finland’s first suburb built from prefabricated elements, and has been protected in the town plan (2008).


Riitta Salastie

Hurme, Riitta (1991). Suomalainen lähiö Tapiolasta Pihlajamäkeen. Helsinki: Suomen Tiedeseura.
Högström, Hilkka (2000). Pihlajamäen rakennusinventointi. Helsinki: Aedes Oy.
Kivinen, Olli (1960). ”Pihlajamäen asemakaava”. Arkkitehti 4–5/1960. Markkanen, Kristiina (2011). Korhonen, Esko (1964). ”Pihlajamäki HAKAn alue”. Arkkitehti 10–11/1964.
Salastie, Riitta et. al. (toim.) (2003). Pihlajamäen arvot ja aatteet, suojelun viitekehystä hakemassa. Helsinki: Helsingin kaupunkisuunnitteluvirasto.
Silvennoinen, Lauri (1964). ”Pihlajamäki SATOn alue”. Arkkitehti 10–11/1964.


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