A new architecture guide takes you around the art nouveau Helsinki
Owls and trolls, junipers and ferns, turrets and stone walls, pastel-coloured facades, buildings with names… In Helsinki, entire neighbourhoods are made up of art nouveau style shapes, colours and materials, popular during the fin de siècle. To help visitors and the city’s residents to discover these gems of one of Europe’s finest art nouveau cities, Helsinki City Museum has produced an art nouveau guide, which will be published on 3 June in both Finnish and English.
Helsinki is a globally unique art nouveau city with its astonishing 600 buildings that represent this style – a number exceeding that of Barcelona or Brussels, to name a few. These architectural highlights are becoming increasingly popular amongst both tourists and the city’s residents. and the city’s diverse and multi-layered architecture invites you to take a stroll and share your pictures on social media.
For a long time, however, no printed guide on Helsinki’s art nouveau has been available to accompany excursions around the city. That is why Helsinki City Museum has created a practical guide to the city’s architecture, which makes it easy to find your favourites from amongst the cornucopia of art nouveau buildings and milieus.
The book contains a selection of nearly 200 sights. In addition to more popular monuments, such as the Pohjola Insurance Building and the National Museum, the guide includes a number of residential buildings, from the majestic stone-built blocks in Katajanokka to the mansions in Eira and wooden buildings in Vallila, as well as schools, churches, hospitals, and commercial and industrial buildings, all integral elements of Helsinki’s urban landscape.
The guide begins with an introduction to the birth and characteristics of art nouveau in Helsinki, the main designers and their backgrounds, and the elaborate features and decorative motifs that can be seen on the building facades. Old and new images paint an in-depth picture of art nouveau Helsinki’s past and present.
The architecture guide has been written by Helsinki City Museum’s researchers, who have spent years studying the city’s art nouveau heritage, and Swiss art nouveau expert Marikit Taylor provides the readers with a more Central European take on Helsinki’s art nouveau:
‘When I look at Helsinki’s art nouveau architecture, I feel like the country’s national epic, Kalevala, with its trees, flowers and wild animals, has sprung to life,’ Marikit Taylor says, describing the city. ‘Many of the fabulous details, windows, gateways and doors are simply unrivalled. However, despite its mythical nature, art nouveau’s political role as a boost to national identity was perhaps more pronounced in Finland than anywhere else.’
The book costs 26 euros and is available for purchase at Helsinki City Museum’s museum shop, Aleksanterinkatu 16.
Photo: Tero Miettinen