Vaalijala Rehabilitation Centre

1948–1952, 1958
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Photo: Simo Rista / MFA
  • PlacePieksämäki
  • Completion 1948–1952, 1958
  • Decade1940s
  • PeriodThe post-war reconstruction era
  • Year of selection2017


After the Second World War, the Vaalijala institution for the mentally disabled, part of the Finnish Church’s Home Mission Society, transferred from Sortavala to the municipality of Pieksämäki. The institution, comprising more than thirty rehabilitation, residential and service buildings, was built in stages from 1948 to 1966 on the basis of architect Yrjö Lindegren’s winning proposal in an invitational architectural competition.

The Vaalijala rehabilitation centre is a well-maintained example of an institution built by the welfare state that is still in its original use. The rehabilitation buildings, grouped according to a pavilion system devised by Lindegren, create a pleasant “village milieu” on the grounds of the former state-provided Nenonpelto soldier smallholding.

Lindegren placed the staff dwellings, terraced houses, detached houses and a waterfront sauna outside the institute’s central courtyard. Instead they were placed naturally in the terrain and partly along the shore of Lake Pieksäjärvi, an idea which had appealed to the competition jury. During the 2000s the original staff housing was adapted for the use of rehabilitation and independent living facilities, thus providing space for the expansion and modernisation of the operational units of the institution.

In the rendered lower floors of the treatment buildings, Lindegren continued the “white” Functionalism trend of the 1930s, which was softened by the dark wooden-panelling of the upper floors, extensive red-tiled roofs and overhanging roof eaves. The use of local building materials typical for the post-war reconstruction period, such as wood and brick, together with schist and concrete favoured by international-style Functionalism, create, however, more a rationalist than a romantic impression.

After Lindegren’s death in 1952, architect Aulis Blomstedt added a church to the central institution’s master plan. The church, with a steep shingled roof, was completed in 1958.  What the buildings in Vaalijala by Lindegren and Blomstedt have in common is architectural and technical innovation, humaneness and dignity.

The early service passageways built in wood and glass demarcate the yards of the central area, and also provide a convenient indoor access from one pavilion to the other. The white-concrete bell tower was integrated with the water tower and redbrick chimney of the heating plant. In Lindegren’s innovative and visionary design all heating and building infrastructure was installed in maintenance tunnels beneath the glazed passageways.


Seija Linnanmäki

Helander, Vilhelm & Rista, Simo (1987). Suomalainen rakennustaide. Modern Architecture in Finland. Helsinki: Kirjayhtymä.
Huhta, Ilkka & Sillanpää, Niina (2007). ”Vaalijala – Sata vuotta arvoja ja kokemusta”. Vaalijalan osaamis- ja tukikeskus: (haettu/accessed: 2.2.2017).
Jetsonen, Sirkkaliisa (2000). ”Piirtoja”. Arkkitehti 6/2000.
”Yrjö Lindegren – arkkitehti”. Arkkitehti 10–11/1950.


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