Last week’s party to celebrate the reopening of the Helsinki City Museum set the tone for the people’s cultural destination. The museum, which relates life in the old days in the Finnish capital, has just moved to a new, bigger premises designed by local firm Arkkitehdit Davidsson Tarkela.
With its free access, super-generous public spaces and user-friendly exhibits, the museum feels decidedly non-elitist. Likewise, the buzzy launch party comprised a broader spectrum of guests than most such events, with local families outnumbering city officials and art world professionals.
HCM’s new €11m home in the city's historic Tori Quarters is a collection of five buildings dating from the 1750s and positioned around a courtyard. Architect Aki Davidsson was tasked with providing as much exhibition and public space as possible. 'It was quite a headache to work out how the buildings would connect,' he says. Part of his solution was to replace a poorly built 1960s wing and remove a set of stairs, which allowed him to install a lift with access to all floors.
The museum’s entrance is an expression of accessibility, with the large lobby furnished by interiors agency Kakadu Oy to encourage visitors to dwell. Outsized carved wooden animals by artist Jasmin Anoschkin are interspersed with a melange of modern and vintage seating. The piece de resistance is Kakadu’s 15m-long ‘timeline’ sofa, a knitting together of different periods of banquette seating along the back wall.
Throughout the buildings, which had formerly been government offices, Davidsson Tarkela stripped the interiors of partition walls and false ceilings, working with 1960s additions put in by brutalist Aarno Ruusuvuori, the architect of Helsinki’s City Hall.
However, architect Taina Laine’s 1961 Falkman building remains, complete with its stylish spiral staircase and wall of hollow bricks. The disparate structures are further unified by a new identity with symbolic heart reference, and three smart bespoke typefaces created by local branding firm Werklig.