THE FINNISH ROWHOUSE From working-class housing to middle-class dream

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1 THE FINNISH ROWHOUSE From working-class housing to middle-class dream The history of the Finnish rowhouse traces back to the lodgings provided for factory workers by Finland s early industrial entrepreneurs. The turn of the 19th century saw the rise of working-class tenements built in straight rows parallel to the city s grid plan, each unit having its own entrance to a shared yard. It was not until the Garden City revolutionized urban planning in the early 20th century that the rowhouse with a front door facing the street and a back door to a private yard came to represent an aspirational lifestyle for the Finns. Finland discovered the rowhouse as a space-efficient, minimum-standard solution enabling even the smallest home to be equipped with its own door to its own garden. Continental Europeans, too, adapted their own versions of the traditional British terraced house and the greenbelt ideal of the English Garden City. The Garden City or Garden Suburb came to dominate turn-of-the-century housing policy, urban planning and architecture across Europe. Garden Cities consisted of residential buildings of varied sizes, some housing one or two families, others three or more in rowhouses. Grandiose plans were also drawn up in Finland, but their execution met with delays. In 1915 Eliel Saarinen drew up a meticulous plan for the Munkkiniemi Haaga district covering 800 hectares of undeveloped land extending Helsinki s urban perimeter. The plan comprised numerous rowhouse complexes of various sizes, yet only a small fragment ever saw the light of day. Finland s first modern rowhouse was built in 1916 in the Helsinki villa district of Kulosaari, which dates from It was the first of two buildings forming Ribbingshof, a townhouse complex by Armas Lindgren and Bertel Liljequist. The nation s first municipal rowhouses were designed by Birger Federley and built in the Tampere district of Viinikka in The shortages following the First World War marked the advent of type planning and the concept of minimum-standard housing in European housing policy. The 1920s marked a decade of rapid urban development in Finland. In the 1930s Finnish architects discovered modernism or functionalism as it came to be known in the Nordic countries and they applied its tenets to the task of addressing fundamental human needs in housing design. Most Finnish rowhouses built in the 1930s were intended for the employees of factories and sanatoriums. Alvar Aalto named the two rowhouses he designed for the medical personnel of Paimio Sanatorium ( ) as an elastic system of adaptably-sized housing. He was later hired by the A. Ahlström Corporation to design two pulp mills, one in Kauttua and the other Sunila. Aalto took innovative adaptability to new heights in the rowhouses and terraced houses he designed for employees of the Sunila pulp mill ( ). It was not until after the Second World War that the rowhouse truly made its breakthrough. The communities designed by Aarne Ervi and Kai Blomstedt for power companies in Lapland brought modern housing to the middle of the northern wilderness. Elegant rowhouses were also designed for mining communities by Märta Blomstedt and Matti Lampén. Rowhouse variants of many sizes sprung up around paper mills, with United Paper Mills commissioning projects from Pekka Saarema, and pulp producer Säteri engaging architects such as Martta Martikainen-Ypyä and Ragnar Ypyä. Rowhouses were even added to the range of standard solutions exported by Finnish wooden kit home suppliers. Finnish prefabricated rowhouse elements were exported as far afield as South America. The model for the Finnish Garden City or Forest City was conceived in 1947 by Otto-I. Meurman, Finland s first professor of urban planning. Rowhouses, which he regarded as a convenient solution for families with children, formed the backbone of his garden suburbs, arranged in a loose pattern around the contours of the natural terrain, with multistorey blocks of flats forming a backdrop behind them. The standard sizes and floor plans of post-war housing units were dictated by the terms of State-subsidized housing loans. Within those strict norms, many Finnish architects nevertheless designed buildings of outstanding creative merit. Tapiola Garden City a new development built in Espoo by non-profit enterprise Asuntosäätiö (the Housing Foundation) achieved international acclaim in the 1950s, as did a rising generation of Finnish architects, most notably Aulis Blomstedt, Aarne Ervi, Viljo Revell and Kaija and Heikki Siren. Heikki von Hertzen, director of the Housing Foundation, was Finland s most influential housing policy-shaper in the 1940s. Adapting the blueprint of Tapiola s Garden City, the Housing Foundation built the Jyväskylä district of Viitaniemi and the Korkalovaara neighbourhood of Rovaniemi. Following the municipal integration of greater Helsinki in 1946, a loose ring of new suburbs was constructed on its outskirts. New rowhouse developments sprang up around the edges of multi-storey housing in Herttoniemi, Lauttasaari, Munkkiniemi, Munkkivuori, Haaga and Maunula.

2 2 EARLY SOCIAL HOUSING Bertel Jung, Rowhouse development for Alppiharju, Helsinki, Architectural plan and elevations. Never realized. Birger Brunila and Otto-I. Meurman, Town plan for the wooden quarter of Käpylä, Helsinki, first sketch, 1910s. Blocks of flats, rowhouses and single-family homes. Birger Federley, Lintulahti rowhouse development in the industrial precinct of Lielahti near Tampere, The last surviving rowhouse before its demolition. Birger Federley, Municipal rowhouse development, Viinikka, Tampere, Two of the three original houses survive. Elias and Matti Paalanen, Type plans commissioned by the Finnish social welfare administration and the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health, Type-planned rowhouses. Otto-I. Meurman, Town plan for the municipality of Riihimäki, Scale model and accompanying elevation sketches. Cover of the guidebook for the First Finnish Housing Congress 1917.

3 3 THE BREAKTHROUGH OF MODERNISM Hilding Ekelund, Atrium house plan, In an interview with Kyösti Ålander from 1970, Hilding Ekelund commented as follows on the Finnish breakthrough of functionalism. Excerpt: KÅ: What was your initial reaction? HE: I guess I can say that my reaction was quite positive. I have never been one for extravagance, but I was also impressed by the movement itself, its social orientation and also by the logic of functionalism. The first projects I saw must have been in Sweden, some of Markelius work. Markelius visit to Finland and his lecture at the Finnish Association of Architects (SAFA) in Turku was a major eye-opener for everyone. He showed his concert hall and some of his overseas projects, the giant Van Nelle tobacco factory in Rotterdam and so on, if I remember correctly. That made the whole thing clear to me Viljo Myyrinmaa, Rowhouse plan. Undergraduate project. Alvar Aalto, Rowhouse/terraced houses from the 1930s and 40s. Rowhouses designed for physicians and medical personnel at Paimio Sanatorium. Terraced house for A. Ahlström s Kauttua mill, Housing for employees of the Strömberg electromechanical company, , Vaasa. Housing for factory personnel at the Yhteissisu automotive plant, , Vanaja, Hämeenlinna. On screen: Designing housing for Kauttua mill. Pedestrian views of the Aaltopuisto housing development in Vaasa and the Yhteissisu automotive plant. Plan for the row house. Viljo Myyrinmaa, student work 1960s. MFA.

4 4 THE SECOND WORLD WAR AND THE RECONSTRUCTION PERIOD Power plant communities in Lapland: Pyhäkoski village in Muhos by Aarne Ervi, and Pirttikoski village in Rovaniemi by Kai Blomstedt, Erik Bryggman, Housing development for the Laivateollisuus shipbuilding company in Pansio, Turku, Type-planned interlinked houses. Karl Gustaf Stigzelius, Workers housing at the Säynätsalo mills, Jyväskylä, Type-planned interlinked houses. The Selvaag or Norwegian house. Norwegian architect Olav Selvaag s affordable post-war housing prototype was adapted in many parts of Finland. Anna-Liisa Mertaoja-Nylund, the Kanervala development in Joensuu and Lehtikuusentie in Kuopio, mid-1950s. Uki Heikkinen, Karjasilta housing development, Oulu, Other examples include the Hietalahti development in Vaasa and the Niinisalo garrison. Pyhäkoski power plant. Aarne Ervi Photo: Roos/MFA.

5 5 INDUSTRIALIZATION, URBANIZATION AND GROWING PROSPERITY Forest industry Säteri Oy, Valkeakoski, Martta Martikainen-Ypyä and Ragnar Ypyä, approx United Paper Mills, Kaipola, Jämsä, Pekka Saarema, Suburbs Herttoniemi, Helsinki: Jorma Järvi and Toivo Jäntti, Karhutie, [street] 25 and 26, The first rowhouses produced by kit home supplier Puutalo Oy. Kissanmaa, Tampere: Toivo Jäntti, complex of eight rowhouses, Kissanmaa, Maunula, Helsinki: Hilding Ekelund, Sahanmäki rowhouse development, 22 rowhouses, Lauttasaari, Helsinki: Ahti and Esko Korhonen, Economists Houses housing cooperative, three rowhouses enclosing a shared yard, Saara and Usko Tilanterä, Tiirasaarentie [street] 6 8, Eija and Olli Saijonmaa, Lokkitie [street] 5, Keijo Petäjä, Luoteisväylä [road] 23, suite of three rowhouses, The architect described the waterfront view from his home s small windows as follows: When I move around my room, the view from my small windows changes constantly. It seems to be in constant flux, even if nature outside seems frozen. You don t get the same effect with panoramic windows. Actually, I can see the whole landscape through my three little windows, even though they make up only two per cent of the wall. Herttoniemi, Helsinki: Oiva Nummiala, Karhutie [street] and Susitie [street] 23 27, 1953/1955. Kaj Englund: Scale model of a rowhouse. Row houses under construction. Hilding Ekelund Sahanmäki area, Maunula, Helsinki. Photo: Unknown/MFA.

6 6 FOREST CITIES In his 1947 book Asemakaavaoppi (The Basics of Town Planning), Otto-I. Meurman described urban planning as a tree that grows from the soil of the surrounding natural and social terrain, spreading wellbeing throughout the community. By this Meurman meant that new housing should adapt to the natural contours of the terrain, with spacious greenbelts interspersed in between buildings. The term Forest City was originally coined as a critique of non-urban environments, but it gradually crept into wider usage without negative connotations. The term was even used as an affectionate nickname. Tapiola In 1946 Heikki von Hertzen published the book Koti vaiko kasarmi lapsillemme (Home or garrison for our children?), in which he voiced a scathing condemnation of high-rise cities and proposed the Garden City scheme as ideal for all future housing developments. As the director of Asuntosäätiö (The Housing Foundation, founded 1951) von Hertzen oversaw the planning and construction of Tapiola Garden City in Espoo, which got under way in The town plan was drafted by Meurman. Unfettered by municipal regulations, the project was innovative in all respects. The architects chosen to design the Garden City s various buildings showed considerable creative ambition at least within the limits imposed by State-subsidized housing loans. The landscape architects also played an influential role in this project. Aulis Blomstedt, Menninkäisentie [street] rowhouses, Viljo Revell, Koulukallio rowhouse, Kaija and Heikki Siren, Rowhouses on Kontiontie [street], These four rowhouses contain 47 units in total, which stands as a pioneering achievement in standardized prefab components and new construction technology. Kehrääjä Housing Cooperative (1960) is a spaciously laid out variation of the rowhouses on Nallenpolku [street]. Otsonpesä Housing Cooperative on the waterfront of Otsolahti, This comb-like chain of five large apartments represents heights of elegance beyond the means of State-subsidized housing developers. Viitaniemi neighbourhood, Jyväskylä. This residential neighbourhood planned by Jorma Järvi brought two new house-types to Jyväskylä, the high-rise block (by Alvar Aalto) and the rowhouse. A total of 16 rowhouses were built between 1956 and 1964 in this wide-open waterfront setting in line with general planning directives issued by the Housing Foundation. The architects were Keijo Petäjä, Raimo Halonen, Juha Vikkula, Matti Haapala, Jorma Paatola, Anna-Liisa Hoikkala-Uski and Erkki Kantonen. Korkalorinne neighbourhood, Rovaniemi. This Arctic version of Tapiola Garden City was built in Rovaniemi between 1958 and Both the town plan and individual buildings are by Alvar Aalto, though only a small part of the overall plan ever materialized. Landscaping by Jussi Jännes. Small screen: pedestrian views of various projects around Finland. Large screen: film documentaries of key rowhouse developments.

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