SOK Offices and Warehouse, Oulu

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Photo: Rafael Roos / MFA
  • PlaceOulu
  • Completion 1938
  • Decade1930s
  • PeriodConstructing the identity of a newly independent nation
  • Year of selection1993


The first buildings representing Functionalism in Northern Finland are from the early 1930s, the most important being the Toppila Cellulose Factory (Alvar Aalto, 1930-31), the Central Primary School (Kaarlo Borg, 1933) and the Chief Physician’s residence in the Oulunsuu hospital grounds (Gustaf Strandberg, 1935-37), all three in Oulu.

The Toppila mill in Oulu, designed by Erkki Huttunen for the Central Finnish Cooperative Society (SOK), was completed in 1929, and still represented the classical architectural tradition. The growth and expansion of the cooperative movement and the need to develop new types of buildings – rural shops, combined office and warehouse buildings and large grain silos – led Huttunen’s architecture to shift towards modernism. Each new building designed by Huttunen was a manifesto of Functionalism, and thus the concept of “cooperative shop Functionalism” came about. The offices and warehouse in Oulu, built in 1938 within the street grid of the city centre, represented this in its purest form.

The SOK office and warehouse in Oulu has a reinforced concrete pillar frame and indeed was built entirely of reinforced concrete, which allowed for long spans, strip windows and long cantilevered canopies. The building is architectonically and functionally divided in two: the storage section with its deep plan and distinct horizontality, and the office section with its distinct verticality and hierarchical subdivision, on the top floor of which was the director’s residence, with its own sauna and roof terrace. The detailing of the office section together with its sales halls is well executed.

The building is nowadays situated in the centre of the urban fabric, in the core of the Oulu city centre, and is still an important part of the cityscape adjacent to an important entrance route into the city. SOK’s use of the building came to an end in 1988, but it is still owned by the company. The premises are leased to various operators, mainly as commercial and office spaces as well as temporary spaces for schools. The warehouse floors are divided by lightweight partition walls for the needs of the different users. The significance of the building was identified already early on and was protected in the town plan in 1986. The surrounding area has been upgraded and complemented with infill building taking into consideration the values of the building and the environment.

The special significance of the building lies in its status as the best representative of its typology, the high quality of its architecture, and its excellent degree of preservation. The building is very authentic in regard to its building parts and basic structure; for instance, all the original windows, doors, lifts, building infrastructure and many details have been preserved.


Helena Hirviniemi

Hirviniemi, Helena (2010). ”Pohjoinen funkis. Esimerkkinä Erkki Huttusen ja Eino Pitkäsen arkkitehtuurin suojelu ja restaurointi”. Ahonen, Raimio, et al (toim.). Arkkitehtuurin historia ja nykyaika, Juhlakirja Kaisa Broner-Bauerille. Sarja A 50. Oulu: Oulun Yliopiston arkkitehtuurin osasto.
Huttunen, Erkki (1939). ”SOK konttori ja varasto, Oulu”. Arkkitehti 2/1939.
Jokinen, Teppo (1993). Erkki Huttunen 1901–1956 arkkitehti. Abacus ajankohta 3, Suomen rakennustaiteenmuseon monografiasarja. Helsinki: Suomen rakennustaiteenmuseo.


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