Taka-Töölö Residential Area

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Photo: MFA
  • PlaceHelsinki
  • Completion 1930–1939
  • Decade1930s
  • PeriodConstructing the identity of a newly independent nation
  • Year of selection1993


The Helsinki district of Taka-Töölö shows the gradual breakthrough of the urban planning ideals of Functionalism.

The initial stages were carried out following the principles of the Jugendstil-spirit town plan drawn up Lars Sonck and Gustaf Nyström in 1906. The starting point for their plan was the town-planning competition held at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries, the first of its kind in Finland. The town plan, however, was criticised and already in 1916 a new plan was drawn up. The principle behind the plan was to open up the urban block structure by combining small blocks and removing the inner courtyard wings of the residential buildings. Several further changes were made to the town plan, gradually making it more spacious and opening up the city block structure.

The first purely Functionalist town plan was drawn up by Birger Brunila in1935. Two years later he prepared a revised plan, on the basis of which the most modern part of the area materialised: it includes, for instance, the rows of apartment buildings along Linnankoskenkatu, where the gables face the street and there are spacious yards between the buildings.

During the early construction stage the buildings still represented a neoclassical architectural style, with ornamentation, wide roof eaves, and column motifs. Gradually, the architecture began to take on the features of Functionalism, and the appearance became simplified. Smooth facades were painted in light colours to maximize the brightness. Decoration decreased, and instead the facade composition was marked by bay windows and small decorative balconies. The entrances and doors were emphasised. A special stage in the development of Taka-Töölö was the short-lived Art Deco period at the beginning of the 1930s, notable for its decorative facades and impressive stairwells. Such features are particularly visible in the houses designed by Jalmari Peltonen along Välskärinkatu.

Construction techniques were modernised only slowly. The apartment blocks that already looked Functionalist were in fact still built using load-bearing brick walls. The layouts of the residences were also initially traditional, because the buildings followed the earlier method of a deep building frame. Gradually, however, the structural system changed; firstly a combined system of bearing walls and columns and beams and then a reinforced concrete frame and increasingly thinner wall structures. Only the final construction stages of Taka-Töölö represent purely Functionalist objectives regarding the urban structure, the architectural design and the floor plans of the dwellings.


Leena Makkonen

Heinonen, Raija-Liisa (1986). Funktionalismin läpimurto Suomessa. Helsinki: Suomen rakennustaiteen museo.
Lindh, Tommi (2002). Töölöläisfunktionalismin neljä vaihetta. Lisensiaatintutkimus/Licentiate thesis. Espoo: Teknillinen korkeakoulu.
Neuvonen, Petri (2006). Kerrostalot 1880–2000. Arkkitehtuuri, rakennustekniikka, korjaaminen. Helsinki: Rakennustieto.


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