The Atrium Apartment Building and Hotel Hospits Betel

1927, 1929
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Photo: Gustaf Welin / MFA
  • PlaceTurku
  • Completion 1927, 1929
  • Decade1920s
  • PeriodConstructing the identity of a newly independent nation
  • Year of selection1993


In Erik Bryggman’s time Turku became the centre of Modernist architecture in Finland. As the long-standing chairman of the city’s facade board, Bryggman followed and influenced the renewal of the cityscape.

The two buildings designed by Bryggman in the 1920s along Yliopistokatu at the point where Kristiinankatu terminates, the Atrium apartment building and Hotel Hospits Betel, together with the intermediate piazza and steps ascending the rocky slope, constitute a significant architectural totality, and probably the most important Italianate urban space in Finland. The architecture of the apartment building and the hotel built a few years later shows a notable simplification in style, one associated with the gradual breakthrough of Functionalism.

The founding meeting of the Atrium housing company was held in the spring of 1925, when Bryggman presented to the future shareholders a perspective drawing of the five-storey building rising up on the rocky hillside. The apartment block received its current form after numerous draft design versions.

With their plaster reliefs, the facades of the hipped-roofed complex have a strongly classicistic appearance. The reliefs portray, for instance, an ancient temple frontage with the inscription ‘Atrium’ and the flame emblem of the 1920s literary group the Flame Bearers. On the Yliopistonkatu side the reliefs are placed in rows between the first-floor windows. Highlighted on the facade are two entrances with projecting classicistic porticos.

The doors to the stairwells and the decorative wrought-iron railings were made in accordance with special drawings by Bryggman, and he also designed decorative murals for the stairway lobbies. The original lift in the stairs of A-block still exists, while in the stairs of B- and C-blocks glass-walled lifts designed by Schauman Architects were built in 2011.

The floor plans of the apartments followed the old tradition of urban living, that is, with the halls and salons on the street side and the kitchen facilities on the courtyard side. The commercial premises in Atrium are located at street level along Yliopistokatu. A particular novelty in the building was a Roman-style spa with vaulted halls, hot and cold pools and tiled saunas, which reiterated the classicistic motifs. The public sauna was closed in the 1990s.

The Turku Lutheran Mission, which owned the Betel church on Puolanmäki hill, had wanted to expand its operations and in 1926 organized an architecture competition for a hotel and church bell tower. Bryggman’s proposal repeated in part themes of the Atrium apartment block. He developed his winning proposal and acquired new ideas from his travels to Italy, Austria and Germany. Following his trips, the plans and facades gained more clarity and the classicistic decorative motifs disappeared. They were instead replaced by clear Functionalist forms. The main entrance to the hotel, overlooking the piazza, received a concrete column-less “Functionalist awning” and box-like balconies.

What catches the eye is the graceful Italianate bell tower rising above the piazza – albeit the slenderness of the tower was lost when in 1990 it was coated with thermal render. Leading up to the tower adjacent to the hotel is a series of steps that repeats the steps motif of the Atrium apartment block on the opposite side of the piazza. Bryggman furnished the hotel restaurant with fashionable Viennese Thonet chairs and Danish Poul Henningsen lamps. Nowadays, in place of the restaurant, is the hotel’s lecture room. The main staircase receives light via a large metal-framed multi-paned window on the courtyard side. The corridor on each floor of the hotel ends in a balcony.

Byggman’s daughter, interior designer Carin Bryggman, renewed the hotel interior in 1974-1980. The next major renovation was completed in 2000 under the direction of architect Matti Uksila, with Björn Sahlqvist as the interior designer, who partly returned Bryggman’s original ideas.


Helena Soiri-Snellman

Nikula, Riitta (2003). ”Bryggman Erik, arkkitehti, professori”. Suomen Kansallisbiografia 2. Helsinki: SKS.
Soiri-Snellman, Helena (2010). Atrium. Erik Bryggman ja Turun arkkitehtuuri. Helsinki: As Oy Atrium.
Stigell, Anna-Lisa (1965). Erik Bryggman. Ekenäs: Ekenäs Tryckeri Aktiebolag, 22.


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