House of Science and Letters

Treasure of the 1920s in Kruununhaka

Project description:

The building located in Kirkkokatu 6 has a rich history and is nowadays known as the House of Science and Letters (Tieteiden talo). In the 1920s, Lisa Hagman bought the site and a school founded by Hagman started to operate there. On the site of the current streetside wing there was then an old Empire-style wooden building where the school operated. In 1922, a red brick hall wing was built on the property between the wooden building and yard buildings. The new five-storey bulding was designed by Elsa Arokallio and completed in 1925 in place of the old wooden building. 

The more thoroughly the architects who planned the renovation have become familiar with the old building, the more respect the solutions of the original architect of the house have awaken. The school building is a fine example of the aspirations of classicist architecture of the 1920s: the ideal was reasonableness, that even within a tight budget careful planning and implementation resulted in a simple, yet multi-faceted building that serves the needs of everyday life. The body of the building is narrow, which allows natural light to flow into all interior spaces. In the interior architecture, special emphasis has been placed on spacious lobby spaces and the main staircase. Carefully placed arches, columns, pilasters and beams group the spaces beautifully. The walls of both the lobbies and the classrooms are adorned with over 70 stunning plaster reliefs created by Emil Cedercreutz. 

In 1996, the building was renovated to house the Federation of Finnish Learned Societies, following Vilhelm Helander’s plans. The ongoing renovation and conversion project is executed following the project plan made in 2019, based on the 1996 restoration phase. The main starting point of the renovation project was the administrative objective: the workspaces of the Federation of Finnish Learned Societies and its interest groups were concentrated in one building, the House of Sciences. At the same time, necessary repair needs for building technology, measures to improve indoor air quality and improve accessibility and acoustics of premises were implemented. 

Planning the renovation, we have wanted to preserve the historical appearance of the building. The façades and original windows were renovated, and the original colors were restored. In the interior, the starting point was the preservation of manners and shades that were followed in the previous renovation, mainly following the studied original colors of the house. The surface treatment and the refinement of the colors meant demanding conservatorial work, the exquisite execution of which has been a special pleasure for designers. The pale surfaces, that are very important to the original look of the house and that vary from space to space, shimmer again. 

The ventilation solution of the previous renovation could still be found to be predominantly functional and compliant with regulations and the technical measures of the ventilation were of the nature of equipment maintenance rather than renovation. The user also adapted to this conservation, and did not require the cooling of the premises, among other things. In terms of the survival of the interiors, this was a huge relief. 

New workstations were placed on the 3rd and 4th floors of the main building for the Federation of Finnish Learned Societies. The former teacher room area on the 2nd floor was equipped as a conference room served by a break kitchen. The former apartment, which was also located in the wing building, was converted into workspace and a new accessible entrance was opened at its end. The basement floor was rearranged as social facilities, as well as auxiliary and storage facilities serving the cafeteria. 

Project info:

Location:Kirkkokatu, Helsinki
Size:2 045 m2
Protection status:The main building is protected by the planning notation ”ark” 
Original construction date:1925
Original architect:Elsa Arokallio
Principal designer:Minna Lukander
Project architect:Jaakko Penttilä
Other team members:Vilhelm Helander, Mari Mannevaara,
Riikka Pylvänen, Ella Müller, Mirella Abe, Jussi Laine, Emilia Nysten
Photos:Arno de la Chapelle

In collaboration with Vilhelm Helander, Juha Leiviskä, architects SAFA.

More information:

Tieteessä tapahtuu. 4/2022. 1920-luvun klassistisen arkkitehtuurin helmi – Peruskorjattu Tieteiden talo avataan uudelleen. Vilhelm Helander, Minna Lukander ja Jaakko Penttilä.