Standard Apartment Building

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Photo: Aino Aalto / AAM
  • PlaceTurku
  • Completion 1929
  • Decade1920s
  • PeriodConstructing the identity of a newly independent nation
  • Year of selection1993


Standing on the same plot in the centre of Turku as the Standard Apartment Building are three older buildings: a Jugendstil apartment building designed by master builder Karl Thomander (1910) as well as two wooden residential buildings by Aug. Helenius (1887) and K.W. Blomberg (1903) respectively.

The building contractor for the Southwest Finland Agricultural Cooperative building, the industrialist, farmer and inventor Juho Tapani, was an important acquaintance for the innovation-seeking young architect Alvar Aalto. Tapani had become familiar with new uses of concrete in Germany, and in the 1910s he patented a system of reinforced concrete wall and floor slabs. His hollow reinforced concrete slabs were among the first Finnish precast-concrete elements.

Aalto was inspired by Tapani’s invention and wanted to experiment with it in his own way. At Tapani’s request, he designed the Standard Apartment Building from “perforated concrete blocks”. Aalto was interested in the development of affordable standardized housing, for which Tapani’s concrete block proved a revolutionary invention. The transverse walls of the apartments are load-bearing, while the outer walls are a light-weight construction. The intermediate floors are prefabricated reinforced concrete elements placed longitudinally. Aalto signed his building approval drawings in June 1928, and around the same time described the standard apartment building in the magazine Rakennustaito: “The building’s facade, a light-weight wall dependent entirely on the beams, is completed only after the roof is complete.”

The main building materials came from Tapani’s own factories: Tapani tiles from Turun Rautabetonivalimo and the roof tiles from Oy Keramia. The steel-framed windows and doors were ordered from Crittall-Braat in the Netherlands. Alvar and Aino Aalto created the standard design for the kitchen interiors, and in the completed building Aino Aalto furnished a standard apartment comprised of Thonet’s slender beech-wood furniture and German tubular steel furniture.

Aalto ended his article in Rakennustaito as follows: “The private builder, who strives to ensure a high technical level by the most natural means, through standardization, I would be inclined to regard as a pleasing phenomenon and socially as an exceptionally positive actor.”

The Standard Apartment Building was the first Functionalist residential building in Finland, in which Aalto implemented new international social ideas for minimal dwelling. The facades of the five-storey residential and commercial building have a smooth rendered finish. The apartments are small one-room or two-room apartments, but in the centre of the block were also family apartments extending the depth of the building. These comprised of four rooms, a kitchen and, in the middle, a windowless living room or hall with a fireplace, with light entering the space from both the street as well as via the rooms on the yard side.

The 2-3-paned steel-framed windows of the apartments were changed to wooden-framed windows in connection with repairs carried out in the 1950s. The steel-framed windows and the Aalto-designed doors with long door handles of the commercial premises are, however, still in place.

The Standard Apartment Building is one of the three buildings designed by Aalto and realised in Turku which are considered his key works leading from Classicism to the Functionalism.


Helena Soiri-Snellman

Aalto, Alvar (1928). ”Uusin Tapani-talo Turussa. Hiukan ennakkotietoja”, Rakennustaito 5–6/1928


Projects by same architect