Suomenlinna Fortress Residential Quarters’ building C83

Vaasa Barracks

© Talli

Project description:

The four barracks, C76, C82, C83 and C84, in Suomenlinna, were built in the 1840s–1850s. The barracks are situated in the southern part of Iso Mustasaari, and belong to the same garrison quarter which dates back to the 1830s, and was constructed by the Russian Navy. Throughout their history, the buildings have been used for accommodation or residential purposes. In the 1970s and 1980s the buildings were renovated and converted into apartments for civilians. For Suomenlinna, the 1970s meant a period when the military islands, which had been closed for centuries, were transferred from the Finnish Defense Forces to the civilian administration. 

Talli is responsible for the project and implementation plans of the residential quarter’s renovation project. The preservation of the values and special features of these buildings guide the renovation process. The strong and historically valuable architectural layer of the 70s is to be preserved and sparingly conserved: only what is necessary will be renovated. The renovation, reuse and thus long lifecycle of the buildings supports essential values of both the Governing Body of Suomenlinna and Talli; sustainability and a reduced carbon footprint. 

The three-storey barrack C83 was constructed on the highest point of the area, where it functioned as a showpiece of Russian Navy’s power. The architecture of the façades resembled that of  Renaissance palaces. The barrack mostly remained in accomondation use until 1918 when it was transformed into a prisoner-of-war camp during the Finnish Civil War. After Finland became independent, the barracks were reverted to accommodation use for soldiers, and after World War II the barracks were occupied by the Vaasa Coastal Artillery Battery, from which the later established name “Vaasa Barracks” (Vaasan kasarmi) originated. In the 1970s the building passed to the Governing Body of Suomenlinna and in 1975 it was thoroughly renovated according to the plans of architect Reijo Lahtinen and converted into civilian rental apartments. 

Now the building has 41 apartments. The special qualities of C83 are the diverse and multi-leveled apartments that fall into place with each other in the manner of tetris blocks. The 3.6–4 metre ceiling height has allowed all apartments to have gallery spaces and some have mezzanine floors. Modern ideals of the 70s are visible in apartments in the flow of space and constructivist structures, the most visible of which are the plastic waffle slab on the mezzanines and the prominent frame construction of the partition walls. 

The base for the project were the renovation measures required for maintenance and the renewal of building technology. The change of mechanical extract ventilation to mechanical input and extract ventilation was the most visible from the resident’s point of view—new channels largely remained visible in the apartments. New chimney-like structures rose on the roof for ventilation purposes. Two apartment modifications were made on the first floor of the building to connect adjacent studio apartments into two accessible apartments. The shared cold rooms were replaced with a drying room and a clubroom. Bathrooms and toilets in the apartments were rearranged. The fixed furniture from the 1970s was repaired and supplemented with new pieces, in keeping with the original style. The color scheme of apartments and stairwells was restored mainly in line with the originals of the 70s. 

Project info:

Year:2023
Building permit granted:9/2021
Client:The Governing Body of Suomenlinna
Location:Suomenlinna, Helsinki
Size:4 361 m2
Protection status:Suomenlinna is a part of UNESCO World Heritage List and is a nationally significant built cultural environment (RKY 2009). The Uusimaa ELY Center has ordered Suomenlinna to be protected. The building C83 belongs to the protection category S2. 
Original construction date:1840–1850s
Principal designer:Minna Lukander
Project architect:Karoliina Hoppu
Interior designers:Mirella Abe, Emilia Nysten 
Photos:Talli, Arno de la Chapelle
© Talli
© Talli
© Arno de la Chapelle
© Arno de la Chapelle
© Arno de la Chapelle
© Arno de la Chapelle
© Arno de la Chapelle
© Arno de la Chapelle