Janne Tuunanen captures modernist architecture of renovated Helsinki Olympic Stadium

Janne Tuunanen captures modernist architecture of renovated Helsinki Olympic Stadium

Photographer Janne Tuunanen captures the sharp modernist architecture of the recently renovated Helsinki Olympic Stadium in Finland in his latest series

The modernist architecture of the Helsinki Olympic Stadium has recently been given a makeover. The elegant piece of design was originally created in the 1930s, but sadly not used until the Summer Olympic Games of 1952, due to World War II. Now, following a recent, four-year-long renovation by a team of architects including K2S, NRT, White Arkitekter and Wessel de Jonge, the stadium has reopened and has been lovingly documented by New York based photographer Janne Tuunanen in tribute. 

‘I found the combination of midcentury architecture and modern design intriguing,’ explains the photographer. ‘I thought the renovation of the stadium has been done really well, in terms of keeping the old aesthetic alive. Also the use of wood on the new roof as well as the new seats were pretty impressive.’

Indeed, maintaining the spirit of the original architecture was key in the restoration works. As a result, any additions feel organic (and are done mostly underground and out of sight) and the building is functional and feels up-to-date and polished. Yet it still exudes the sense of optimism and experimentation of the early modernist approach. 

Helsinki Olympic stadium shot by Janne Tuunanen showing olympic logo

Originally designed by Finnish modernist architects Yrjö Lindegren and Toivo Jäntti, the stadium features an extra tall, striking tower that has become a Helsinki landmark since its completion in 1938. The architecture blends streamlined concrete forms, sharp, white surfaces and shapes subtly remniscent of ocean liners, in typical fashion of the modernist styles of the time. Now, a new timber clad canopy protects the stalls, while the seats have been replaced by modern versions made of sustainable wood composite. 

Tuunanen was familiar with the sports facility, hailing from Finland and having visited it for sporting events – namely football – in the past. So, choosing it as the protagonist of his new artistic series felt natural - but also challenging in its own way. ‘It was a first time shooting a sports venue of this size,’ he says. ‘But it did remind me of the Alvar Aalto project as the architecture is from the same era as some of the Aalto buildings.’

Tuunanen is refering to his recent series on the architecture of Alvar Aalto in Jyväskylä, which explores Finland’s lesser known architectural gems by the modernist master in a simple, artful and engaging manner. In a similar way, this new, straightforwardly named ‘Helsinki Olympic Stadium’ series, consists of 16 photographs, shot in late 2020. They offer a graceful, graphically arresting representation of the iconic stadium, tipping its hat to the past as it enters its 90s decade. §

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