Helsinki Central Railway Station

Multiphase development project of the iconic landmark

Project description:

Designed by Eliel Saarinen and opened for public in 1919, the Helsinki Central Railway Station is an iconic landmark in the heart of the city. In 2018, VR Group launched the railway station’s development project. The aim of the project is to make the station more serviceable to its users, to carry out the renovations required for the building, and to improve the amenity and safety of the station and its surroundings. The aim is also to diversify services so that customers would come there to pass their free time along with only passing through. The reforms will be implemented in several different entities and phases, to minimize the disruption for the day-to-day use of the busy station. The changes in the first phase of the development project have been completed and very well received. 

The surroundings of the railway station will be changing a lot over the next few years. The Railway Square and Eliel Square are envisioned to become vibrant and safe walking areas with outdoor services. The surrounding’s development and its effects are considered in the development of the station building both operationally with smoothing connections and reinforcing the value, position, and visibility of the building in the urban space. The interior of the building is a part of the pedestrian area and joining the exterior and interior as a comfortable and safe urban space is central to the development of the station’s milieu. The west side park has been converted into an outdoor serving area for the ticket hall’s new restaurant and a direct access between them has been opened. Outdoor serving areas are also designed for the commercial premises on the side of Eliel Square. 

Lighting plays a significant role in enhancing amenity in addition to highlighting architectural values. The renewed façade lighting follows the principle where the tower as a landmark, the main entrances and the light visible from windows of the large board rooms stand out. Other façade lighting is more discreet. A coherent signage and advertising plan has also been prepared for the station building’s façades. 

Three different functional entities have been outlined in the Central Railway Station; the administrative building, the station building and the west wing. The development project covers the station building as well as the west wing, which both remain under VR ownership. The station building with its halls has been consecrated to a variety of functions that support the wellbeing of the travelers. Originally, the west wing served the needs of freight traffic, but since has gone through several changes and functions. The services are concentrated in the main halls and the space series they form, which is the central public activity area of the railway station. Some of the major operational reforms in the first phase have been the conversion of the ticket hall to its original use as a restaurant, and the implementation of its outdoor serving area. Other premises on the main floor halls have also been converted into commercial premises. Services for travel are centralized in the west wing. The second phase of the project has started in the spring of 2023 with the renovation of the kiosk hall. The renovation includes renewing the kiosks, the restoration of wall and ceiling surfaces as well as windows, and renewing the lighting of the hall.

The station building is protected by the Building Heritage Act as well as by the planning notation sr-1. The development project will ensure the preservation of the architectural and cultural historical value as required by the Act. The project design is actively carried out in consultation with The Finnish Heritage Agency and the City of Helsinki building supervision. A conservation management plan was initially drawn up as the backbone of the renovation. The value classification of the premises serves as the basis for the types of functions that can be placed in them. The most valuable interiors are the spacious original halls of impressive proportions, rich in detail and harmonious, and the space series they form. Central to the renovation is the preservation of the architectural image and spacious feel of the halls with their details remained as intact as possible, as well as the series of space they form, their views and transparency. The new building elements are characteristic of the architecture of the station, with the materials being oak, glass and brass. 

Project info:

Year:Development project’s first phase completed for the most part during 2020–2022. The second phase of the project has started. 
Client:VR Group
Location:Kaivokatu, Helsinki
Size:32 776 m2
Original construction date:For the most part in 1913
Original architect:Eliel Saarinen
Protection status:Protected by the Building Heritage Act and by the planning notation sr-1, as a part of the RKY-area.
Photos:Arno de la Chapelle, Esa Naukkarinen, Ville Vappula

Original architect Eliel Saarinen. Several stages of change and various architects. The joint venture between Talli and A-Konsultit Architects is responsible for the principal and architectural design of the development project. Development project in collaboration with Design Office Amerikka. 

From Talli, Minna Lukander, Mira Kyllönen, Otto Honkamaa and Elina Skog have participated in the design of the project.

More information:

Helsingin Sanomat. 21.3.2022. Iso ravintola avautui Helsingin päärautatie­­­asemalle – Tila on täynnä fiinejä yksityis­kohtia, mutta ketju yrittää houkutella hinnoillaan aivan tavallisia ohikulkijoita. Tuomo Väliaho.

Helsingin Sanomat 28.11.2022. Uusi vessa korvaa sata vuotta hätäisiä auttaneen käymälän pää­rautatie­asemalla. Jonna Hovi-Horkan.

© Esa Naukkarinen
© Esa Naukkarinen
© Esa Naukkarinen
© Esa Naukkarinen
© Esa Naukkarinen
© Esa Naukkarinen
© Esa Naukkarinen
© Esa Naukkarinen

© Esa Naukkarinen
© Esa Naukkarinen
© Ville Vappula
© Arno de la Chapelle
The stairs and elevator connects the passenger service facilities as a part of the station’s public spaces. © Arno de la Chapelle
© Arno de la Chapelle
© Arno de la Chapelle
© Arno de la Chapelle
© Arno de la Chapelle