Sibelius Museum

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Photo: Simo Rista / MFA
  • PlaceTurku
  • Completion 1968
  • Decade1960s
  • PeriodThe rise of the welfare state
  • Year of selection2017


The Sibelius Museum is part of the Åbo Akademi University’s campus on the eastern shore of the River Aura, close to Turku Cathedral. Woldemar Baeckman was in charge of the design of the university’s campus from the mid-1950s to the late 1970s. He drew up land use plans for the area as well as designing new buildings and planning the renovations of historical buildings. The Sibelius Museum was built in an urban block on the riverfront amidst wood and stone buildings from the 1830s built in the neoclassical style. Baeckman placed the single-storey pavilion-like building in the middle of the block so that it would disturb the historical street frontage as little as possible. The building’s form language and materials make no references at all to the surrounding buildings. The restrained façades reflect a modular structure, with a square shape repeated in different scales.

Baeckman explained that he had planned the building around the Sibelius Hall, which is used as a concert venue. The hall, which is taller than the rest of the building, together with the exhibition and lobby spaces that surround it form a severe symmetrical totality, for which there are no points of comparison with either Baeckman’s other architecture or other Finnish contemporary architecture. It could be speculated that one source of inspiration was Louis Kahn’s buildings, which were generally admired in Finland in the 1960s.

In connection with the museum, facilities were also built for Åbo Akademi University’s departments of musicology and art history. In these spaces Baeckman applied the same concept but in a simplified form: workrooms and seminar rooms line an inner courtyard the size of the Sibelius Hall, under which is an auditorium lit by skylights. An important part of the totality is the furniture designed by Carin Bryggman and the planting layout designed by garden designer Maj-Lis Rosenbröijer.

In the design of the Sibelius Museum, Baeckman took advantage of concrete’s versatile means of expression. The load-bearing structures were cast in-situ, but the façades are clad in precast concrete elements. The latter are characterized by a relief effect created by alternating fields of vertical and horizontal shuttering boards. Also the sun shades in front of the windows and courtyard lighting were built using prefabricated concrete elements. In the fair-faced concrete surfaces in the interiors, there is an alternation between different textures created by plank and plywood shuttering. The roof of the Sibelius Hall consists of four hyperbolic paraboloid-shaped concrete shells, the inspiration for which was probably the “hypar umbrellas” developed in the 1950s by the Mexican architect Félix Candela.

No major repairs have been carried out in the Sibelius Museum, so the original materials and details have been preserved very well. The most visible changes have entailed the museum making use of the university department facilities, the removal of the large planting box from the inner courtyard and renewals of the exhibition architecture.


Kristo Vesikansa

Ringbom, Sixten (1985). Akademiska gårdar. Arkitektur och miljöer kring Åbo Akademi. Åbo: Åbo Akademi.
Seppälä, Henriikka (2007). Sibelius-museo. Modernismia ja perinnettä. Pro gradu -tutkielma. Helsinki: Helsingin yliopisto.
”Sibeliusmuseo” (1970). Maunula, Jarmo (toim.), Suomi rakentaa 4. Helsinki: Suomen arkkitehtiliitto.
Vesikansa, Kristo (2013). ”Woldemar Baeckman – Sibelius-museo, Turku 1968 / Sibelius Museum, Turku 1968”, Arkkitehti 4/2013.


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